Profits plunged from £589,000 to £121,000 at United Carpets, the UK’s third biggest flooring retailer, after a “very challenging” first half but it sees “encouraging signs” in recent performance.

Like for likes fell 1.8% in the six months to September 30 but in the 11 weeks since the period ended, this returned to positive territory at 0.1% growth.

The retailer said if these “encouraging signs” were sustained it would result in a better second half and a “reasonable outcome for the year”.

Total sales for the first half rose 8.4% to £10.8m

United Carpets chief executive Paul Eyre said the heatwave and the World Cup in the summer made its first half a “very challenging” trading period.

He said: “We worked hard to maintain sales levels but to do so required increased investment in marketing and further support for the franchise network. In addition, we have continued to invest in online activities and to explore future business development opportunities to better prepare the group during a challenging period of changing shopping habits.

“With no immediate signs of respite in the general environment and continuing Brexit uncertainties, we entered the second half cautiously; however, recent trading performance has shown some more encouraging signs which, if sustained, should result in a better second half result and a reasonable outcome for the year.”