French Connection’s pre-tax loss has increased in its half-year results, despite what it described as the “encouraging” performance of its retail business in the difficult economic climate.

In the six months to July 31, pre-tax loss was£3.5 million, up from£2.5 million in the previous year.

Operating loss was£3.3 million, up from£2.4 million in the previous year. Group revenue was£112.4 million, just ahead of last year.

French Connection chairman and chief executive Stephen Marks said: “Against the background of a significant downturn in our major markets, the performance of our retail business has continued to be encouraging, with resilient overall sales and continued growth in our ladieswear division.

“In total, however, turnover has remained broadly flat, which when combined with increasing pressures on our margins and cost base, means our financial results for the first six months remain disappointing.”

French Connection’s ladieswear sales rose 8 per cent on a like-for-like basis in both the UK and North America.

During the period, French Connection’s business in Japan, previously jointly owned with the Renown Group, became a wholly owned subsidiary.

Marks added: “Looking forward, our main aim is to build on the strong momentum within our French Connection ladieswear business and to mirror this success within our menswear business. It would appear that the economic environment is unlikely to improve in the short term and that therefore any gains we make will have to be achieved through significant outperformance by our ranges.”