French Connection delivered a 2.9% like-for-like slump in the 24 weeks to January 12, pulled down by the premium fashion retailer delaying its festive Sale by one week.

The retailer expects to report a loss before tax and exceptional items for the year ending January 31, 2013 in the region of £7.5m to £8m.

Meanwhile, the group is expected to close the year with net cash of about £25m.

In the 24-week period, French Connection said it had traded well at the start of the autumn/winter season but sales in the UK and European retail business eased in the run-up to Christmas.

In addition, benefiting from tight stock control, the retailer pushed the start of the Sale back one week “as part of our process to build brand equity”, it said. The majority of the 2.9% like-for-like drop, 1.9%, was in relation to moving the Sale date.

French Connection made a similar delay to the Sale start date in North America. Trading in the region had been disrupted by extreme weather in the period, but despite this its performance was “broadly in line” with expectations.