Sales fell at upmarket grocer Whole Foods’ five UK stores in the year to last September, but the company managed to slash its operating loss in the period.

Total sales fell 11.8% to £43.1m in the year to September 27 2009, affected by the closure of one store. Like-for-like sales were down 4.5%, which Fresh & Wild - the subsidiary which owns the Whole Foods business in the UK - blamed on “the challenging retail environment.”

However the company said it was continuing to look for additional stores in the London area, and said “we believe the changes we’ve made in merchandising, product mix and pricing will allow us to drive further improvements in our financial results.”

The operating loss fell from £36m in 2008 to £4.4m in 2009, although the 2008 figure was influenced by a £27m one-off impairment charge.