Womenswear group Alexon generated a big like-for-like sales rise over Christmas but brokers were split about the message on profitability.

In the five weeks to January 22 like-for-like sales rose 13.3% and early spring ranges performed well.

Cumulative like-for-likes fell 1.1% over the 25 weeks to the same date - an improvement on the 20 weeks to December 18 when there was 4.7% dip.

The group said it expected to deliver profit before tax for the year ending January 29 of between £0.7m and £1m - less than some analysts had previously expected.

House broker Investec said: “Despite a like-for-like recovery over recent weeks against last year’s weak weather-affected comparatives, clearance activity has resulted in further erosion to gross margin gains.” Investec cut its full-year pre- tax profit forecast from £1.3m to £0.85m.