Findel has hailed “an improvement” in sales performance, just two months after it warned on profits following a tough third quarter.

In a pre-close trading update, the etailer, whose third biggest shareholder is Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct, said profit before tax would be “broadly in line with market expectations”.

Findel said in January that full-year profits would be £2m-£3m lower than forecast after difficult trading at its Express Gifts business.

But in a statement to the Stock Exchange this morning, Findel said Express Gifts had staged “a strong recovery” following a “low rate of sales growth” during the first nine months of the year.

The online retailer said that sales within its core division, which accounts for 80% of profits, had grown 8.5% during the last nine weeks of the financial year ending March 25.

That compares with 2.2% sales growth for the year as a whole.

Findel, which also operates the Findel Education business, said it was “confident” that Express Gifts’ strategy would “yield significant medium-term profit growth”.

However, Findel, which reports its full-year results in June, warned the figures will contain exceptional items relating to last month’s disposal of its Kitbag sports and leisure business.

As previously reported, Findel sold the sports etailer to US licensed sports merchandise specialist Fanatics for £11.55m, thwarting Sports Direct’s attempts to acquire the business.

The Mike Ashley-owned retailer snapped up 19% of Findel’s shares late last year in an attempt to disrupt the sale and also attempted to get a Sports Direct representative onto the etailer’s board – a move that was scuppered by a shareholder vote.