Countrywide has reported a first half £500,000 group operating loss after a mild autumn hit performance at the rural products retailer.

The loss compares with a profit this time last year of £500,000.

Sales increased 3% to £143.6m in the six months to the end of November.

The losses were driven by poor grain trading, which the company said is still being affected by a poor harvest in 2012.

Countrywide chairman Nigel Hall said: ““The first 6 months of the year is always our more difficult trading period, however we have made significant investments during this period.”

The company is seeking an interim finance director to replace Les Collins who is leaving the business. Countrywide is considering a flotation on the AIM stock exchange.