Fashion retailer Joules has blamed store closures due to coronavirus for falling sales and profits on the day it announced its chief financial officer would be stepping down.

For the 26 weeks to November 29, Joules reported that group revenue fell 15.3% to £94.5m, while statutory profit before tax slipped £0.4m to £1.3m. 

Profit before tax before exceptional costs meanwhile fell £4.7m to £3.7m, which Joules said was ahead of expectations. 

There were some positives for the business, however, which saw its net cash position for the period strengthen by £13.5m to £15.6m. 

Ecommerce sales through its multichannel platforms grew by more than 45% during the period, while active customers jumped 160,000 to 1.6 million. 

Joules also had a relatively resilient Christmas trading period, with retail sales up 0.3% due to ecommerce sales more than offsetting losses from shuttered stores.

Chief executive Nick Jones said:“We are pleased with the Group’s performance during the first half of the FY21 financial year with strong growth in active customers and profits ahead of the Board’s expectations. This performance, underpinned by very strong sales growth through our digital channels, was achieved despite challenging trading conditions and extended periods of store closures.

“The Group’s progress continues to reflect the strength of our flexible and digital-led model, growing customer base and strong brand as well as the talent and dedication of our teams. I would like to take this opportunity to extend my sincere thanks to all Joules colleagues for their hard work as well as to our customers and partners for their continued support.

The retailer also announced separately today that chief financial officer Marc Dench would be stepping down from the business to take on a new role with private equity-backed HealthHero. 

Joules said a search for Dench’s successor was underway, and that he would remain in his post no later than the end of the retailer’s financial year in May. 

Dench, who joined Joules in 2016 following its float, said: “It has been a privilege to be part of the Joules journey over recent years. From the IPO in 2016, the business and brand has continued to develop and adapt to the rapidly changing customer and market dynamics and is, I believe, incredibly well-positioned for its next chapter of growth.”