Furniture specialist DFS’ EBITDA plummeted 32% to £28.3m in its half year.

Sales fell from £330.7m to £296.8m in the 26 weeks to January 28, however the retailer said performance improved in its second quarter.

DFS chief executive Ian Filby said: “Although we do not expect any easing of the difficult trading environment, we anticipate a continued improvement in the more encouraging trend in performance that became evident in the second quarter, with a growing sales contribution from our additional stores and factory capacity during the second half.”

The retailer said it had invested £3.1m into retail and manufacturing expansion over the period.

Filby said its investment in production would improve efficiency, increase margins and enhance customer service by shortening delivery lead times on a growing part of its product range.

The furniture retailer is on track to open 12 new stores this year, with eight opened in its first half. It is to debut its first overseas store in Dublin this Easter.

In recognition of the importance of marketing to the business, DFS has hired former BBC director of marketing and audiences Helen Normoyle to the newly created role of chief marketing officer.  Normoyle takes up the post in May.