Fashion retailer French Connection has warned that its first-half retail sales will come in “materially lower than expected”.

French Connection has warned that its first half retail sales will come in “materially lower than expected”.

The retailer said that “challenging conditions in our retail trading reported at the year end have continued through the completion of the Easter period”.

French Connection said: “The financial performance for the year is now expected to be below the current market expectations.”

However, it said its wholesales performance “is in line with expectations”. The retailer said forward orders are up year on year and that licensing “continues to perform strongly”.

French Connection said cash is currently £9.9m, compared with £12m last year, with no debt. It said stock levels at the end of March were 7% lower than the prior year.

The retailer said: “We have been putting in place many improvements across the business in the last two years and will continue to implement positive change across the group.

“We continue to execute our store closure plan and we now expect to close seven stores during the current year.”

Last month the fashion retailer posted an underlying operating loss of £800,000 for the year ending January 31, compared with a £4.4m loss in 2014, but warned that it was “planning accordingly” for another challenging year.