Carpetright has reported an increase in first-half profits despite a fall in sales, which were held back by a poor performance in mainland Europe.

The carpet and flooring specialist reported a 4.7% fall in total sales to £227.2m in the 26 weeks to October 27, with underlying group operating profit rising to £5.4m.

UK like-for-like sales rose 3% year on year excluding wholesale revenues, while UK profits rose from £800,000 in the first half last year to £5.2m in 2012. Total UK sales fell 1.6% to £189.1m.

Mainland Europe sales fell 17.7% year on year to £38.1m and profit in the division fell from £2.9m to £200,000 as trading conditions in the Netherlands remained “very difficult”. Like-for-like sales in the division fell 10.1%.

The company said it had refurbished 58 stores in the period, with sales uplifts of more than 10% compared with the core retail business. The retailer’s store numbers reduced by net 10 during the first half to 480.

Carpetright chief executive Darren Shapland said: “The group grew underlying profits and generated cash in line with our expectations during the first half, with an encouraging increase in UK retail store like-for-like sales and a significant improvement in gross profit percentage year on year, although trading conditions in the Netherlands remained very difficult.

“Having been with the business for seven months and seen it trade through the important September to November peak has confirmed my initial view that the group is well managed and that no fundamental shift in strategy is required. 

“That said, we believe there are opportunities to accelerate the pace of a number of current self-help initiatives, notably the ongoing modernisation of the store estate, building customer awareness of our bed offer and further improving customer service, to enable us to grow our market share.”

Shapland said the “self-help initiatives will underpin positive momentum” in the group despite expecting no let-up in difficult trading conditions.