Trading at French Connection’s difficult UK and Europe retail business has improved as the retailer recorded flat like-for-like sales in the 15-weeks to May 11, 2013.

It is an improvement for the struggling fashion retailer, which reported a 7.4% like-for-like decline in the UK and Europe retail business in its full-year to January 31, 2013.

French Connection said group cash hit £15.7m against £10.4m last year, which “reflected the continued importance being placed on the tight control of working capital”.

French Connection said the business performed well in the early weeks of the year. Trading then “softened” through March but has returned to a better performance again “recently”. Gross margins were also “slightly lower” than a year ago.

The retailer said the impact of the turnaround strategy has started to flow through the business and improvements are expected to grow as the year progresses.

In North America, retail sales in the quarter jumped 5% year on year driven in part by promotional Sales, which has hit margins “slightly”.

French Connection said its Asian joint ventures have “performed well” and generated a “small improvement” in profit levels in the period despite the retail market slowing down in China and Hong Kong.

Across its wholesale business, UK and Europe sales are below last year due to lower forward orders and reduced business in-season, which French Connection said was expected. But it said forward orders for the winter collection are in line with those achieved at this time last year. North American wholesale sales are also down year on year due to a “more difficult” start to the year for US department stores, the retailer said.

French Connection last week hired former O2 finance director Adam Castleton. He replaces Roy Naismith, who departed last month after 12 years in the role.