Rural retailer Countrywide makes redundancies as it reports “disappointing” first half results.

The specialist reported slipped into the red, posting a group operating loss of £1.2m in the six months to November 30, against a £0.3m profit the year before.

Its retail business posted lower sales and margins resulting in a reduction in profits.

Countrywide chairman Nigel Hall said:  “The impact of challenging economic conditions and warm weather, particularly compared to the very cold winter last year, combined to produce a disappointing result.

“Rural retailing is not immune from the challenges that the whole of the UK retail industry is facing, with disposable income under pressure, consumer confidence low and inflation impacting product cost.”

The retailer has cut costs by £2.5m which has meant axing some staff.

Countrywide chief executive John Hardman said: “The actions taken are necessary to secure the long term success of the business and include tighter controls of working capital and capital expenditure.”

“A comprehensive review of stock levels, product ranges and supplier relationships is underway and it is with great regret that some long serving and loyal employees are leaving the business, including two prominent senior managers.”

The retailer is repositioning its retail business to focus on quality, value and affordability. It launched the first phase of its value range last autumn which it is further developing.

Hall said: “It is apparent that tough trading conditions are here to stay and we have acted accordingly.”

Despite difficult trading, the retailer said it will continue to grow the business through geographical expansion and it has acquired specialist animal health and farm supplies business H&C Pearce and Sons.