DSGi chief executive John Browett has been examining the impact of recessions as far back as 1929 to learn lessons about surviving the toughest of times.

Speaking as DSGi reported its first interim loss in more than 20 years –£29.8 million in the six months to October 18, compared with profits of£52.4 million the year before – Browett insisted the right action was being taken to withstand the downturn.

He said that most recessions last six to eight quarters and believes businesses are two quarters into the present downturn. DSGi will not pay a dividend this year to ensure it is “liquid enough to get through the recession”.

Browett said steps taken in the UK such as the group’s refit programme, TV price alignment and staff training are all “painful now”, but vital to see the retailer through. “We are taking radical action now, not delaying it as things will only get worse.”

He observed: “Looking back, in all reasonable recessions we should be fine, but this is an unreasonable world.”

DSGi posted a mixed performance from its international operations. A turnaround in Italy finally seemed to be under way, with like-for-likes in the 12 weeks to November 15 flat against a weak market in the country.

In the flagship Nordic region, first-half like-for-likes fell 6 per cent and Spain and Central Europe were weak.

Numis analyst Nick Coulter was cautious about the outlook for DSGi. He said: “As at the period-end, DSGi has drawn down£100 million of a£400 million facility and traded within covenants at that date.

We expect DSGi to trade through the coming quarter without issue. However, we note the threat posed by the lower availability of credit insurance and the risk to future period-end dates as trading continues to deteriorate.”

Dresdner Kleinwort analyst James Grzinic said that due to pressures on the retailer its stock remains “uninvestable”.