Losses at electrical chain Comet widened in its first half when toughening trading conditions and spending on store refits and rebranding took a toll.

Comet reported a retail loss of €6.4m compared to €1.8m in the equivalent period last time and gross margin was down 80 basis points as a result of sales mix pressures.

However Comet, owned by Anglo-French group Kesa, benefited at the start of the year from the World Cup, and said it has “started to take significant actions to improve future performance.”

The 249-store chain has pushed further into the higher margin accessories and small domestic appliance categories, and has been overhauling stores. Refitted shops continue to generate the same sales and margin uplift delivered by the original seven-store pilot last year, the retailer said.

Comet has also rebranded, to emphasise family-friendliness, and relaunched its website. Web sales rose 8% in the first half and now account for 14.6% of total sales, which rose from €851.3m to €864.1m in the period.

At group level Kesa, which also owns French chain Darty, generated adjusted pre-tax profit up from €16.4m to €25m in the six months to October 31. Sales rose 4.1% to €2.78bn.

Kesa chief executive Thierry Falque-Pierrotin said: “We have prepared all our businesses for what we expect to be a competitive peak trading period and will continue to implement self-help measures in order to face an increasingly uncertain market environment.”