Some improvement later in the year
French Connection has warned that trading has been tough and there was a plunge in like-for-like sales of about 11 per cent at its UK and European businesses for the first half of the financial year.

As a result, the retailer now expects profit before tax for the year ending January 31 2006 to be between£20 million and£25 million, a figure significantly below analysts' expectations.

The fashion retailer blamed the overall tough market for the drop in sales, which not only affected store sales but orders from wholesale customers. French Connection predicts this will have an impact on sales of its winter collections, being delivered at the moment, resulting in an expected 10 per cent decline in winter sales.

However, the retailer is confident it will see gains in the second half of the year, based on a broad improvement in ranging and expects a small rise in comparable sales for the year.

French Connection chairman Stephen Marks said: 'The CBI announced that the high street has witnessed the sharpest fall in sales volumes in more than 22 years. French Connection is not immune to this. We are encouraged by our strong collections but the high street is very tough at the moment.'