French Connection has narrowed full-year operating losses to £4.4m from £7.2m the previous year as its turnaround initiatives gained traction.

French Connection generated sales of £189.4m in the year to January 31. They were down 4%, which the retailer blamed on a reduced store portfolio. It closed nine stores in the year and plans to shut another three to five shops this year.

The premium fashion retailer said it had reduced operating expenses by 6.9%.

French Connection said the performance of the retail division across the UK and Europe improved in the second half. Gross margin increased and like-for-likes jumped 1.4% against the first half when like-for-likes fell 4%.

French Connection chairman and chief executive Stephen Marks said: “I am pleased that the initiatives we put in place to drive a turnaround in our trading performance have delivered better than anticipated results and that they continue to gain traction.

“We strengthened management across our business resulting in improvements in performance. Our new design team is working well; changes in our retail buying resulted in much better stock control; stores are operating more efficiently and the investment in our ecommerce business delivered good results.

“We have accomplished a lot in the past year and will build on that momentum to deliver further improvements. We have seen a positive reception to our spring range and while there is still much to do, I am confident that we are on the right path and have the right strategy to drive further progress.”