Like-for-like sales at House of Fraser rose 0.6% in the second quarter and the retailer said it had recorded a “strong start” to the second half.

The department store group reported like-for-likes, excludnig VAT, up 1.7% in the first half. Gross profit was flat at £94.8m in the 13 weeks to July 28.

House of Fraser said like-for-like sales in the first eight weeks of the third quarter surged 4.6%.

Total sales were £166.4m while operating profit was £2.7m in the second quarter. Turnover for the 26 weeks was £297.6m and the retailer recorded an operating loss of £9.3m in the first half.

Online sales rocketed 52% in the second quarter and cumulative sales in the first half were up 60%.

The retailer said that its Aylesbury, Telford and Milton Keynes stores were the star performers, delivering like-for-like growth of 31%, 27.2% and 10.8% in the second quarter. Sales at the Oxford Street store rose 10% following a refurbishment earlier this year.

House of Fraser reduced its net debt from £235.4m at 30 July 2011 to £218.9m at the end of July this year.

The retailer said: “We are pleased to report a solid set of results despite difficult market conditions. Our strategy to invest in our stores and online proposition as well as further develop our product offering will continue to drive growth.

“It continues to be difficult to predict when economic conditions will improve. However, we are encouraged by the strong start to the second half.

The retailer added: “We will continue to focus on further improving customer service and maintaining the operational efficiency of the business and tight control over costs and cash. We believe that, with this strategy, we are well placed to continue to deliver for the remainder of the year.”