JJB Sports like-for-likes dropped 5.7% in the 5 weeks to January 29 as its margins continued to improve.

Cash gross margins soared 32.1% over the period.

In its second half, JJB Sports like-for-likes fell 7.6% compared to a 17.9% plunge in its first half to July 31 and cash margin edged up 0.3% against a 37.4% plummet.

For its full year, like-for-likes dropped 13.1% and like-for-likes cash gross margins declined 22%. JJB chief executive Keith Jones said its full year trading was in line with its expectations in the face of an “extremely challenging” consumer environment.

He said: “Weaker UK employment numbers and the ongoing credit squeeze on consumers create a tough environment. However, we are continuing to implement our turnaround aware of the importance of the key trading opportunities afforded by the European football championships and London Olympics”.

Panmure Gordon analyst Philip Dorgan said JJB’s was a solid performance given that most clothing retailers have had a tough start to the year.

He said: “A few green shoots are beginning to become visible, given the continued strong performance of the refitted stores, a decent online opportunity emerging and ongoing good cash management. We are maintaining our Hold recommendations. However, for the first time for quite some time, it is possible that there could be some upside to our forecasts.”

The analyst expects the retailer to make a pre-tax loss of £55m for its financial year just ended, reducing to a £33m loss in its current year.