French Connection’s UK and European like-for-likes increased 2 per cent in the 11 weeks to May 16.

Total sales at the fashion retailer grew 8 per cent, while gross margin at its high street and shopping centre arm was at a similar level to last year, although taking into account additional outlet stores, margin across the board was lower.

The retailer said trading has been “in line with that which we saw in the last financial year” and that ladieswear “continues to show growth” while its brand Toast is “performing very well”. However it said menswear “continues to be difficult”.  The North American market “remains soft” while its Asian stores have “experienced a slow-down”.

The retailer said its UK performance was “good”, in the “context of the general fashion retail market”.

In its North America retail business, which accounts for 16 per cent of group turnover, like-for-like sales declined 2 per cent, with sales volumes falling 6 per cent. Margin has eroded due to additional promotional activity during the winter Sale.  

French Connection’s Hong Kong and Japan businesses have shown a “softening in sales performance reflecting a general deterioration in those markets”.

The retailer said its balance sheet “remains strong” with £20m of net cash at the end of April 2009 compared with £30.9m last year.

French Connection will work to capitalise on the strength of its ladieswear ranges and to improve the performance of menswear in all its markets.  

It added: “We continue to work to reduce our cost base and improve efficiencies wherever possible.”