Instore, the owner of Poundstretcher, has increased its losses, revealing a £6.3 million net operating loss before exceptional items for the 26 weeks to August 30.

This compares with the£3.5 million loss it made in the same period last year. Instore said the increase in losses was owing to essential investment and increases in energy costs.

However, current trading has picked up, with like-for-like sales across the Poundstretcher and Instore brands rising 1.9 per cent in the seven weeks to October 18. Total sales climbed 4.3 per cent in this period.

In the six-month period, like-for-likes declined 1.4 per cent, while total sales rose 1.5 per cent.

The 303-store company said it has renegotiated cost prices to enable lower retail prices in the period and has invested in the refurbishment of stores, as their standards have fallen “below acceptable levels”.

A trial of new-look stores will be rolled out, with a greater proportion of space being dedicated to food and toiletries.

Instore said that although it will be “prudent” in its store opening strategy, there are many opportunities to expand in the North when the company has been restored to a profitable position.

Seaham Investments bought a 56.89 per cent stake in the company in the six-month period. Chairman Dr Christo Wiese stood down, and was replaced by John Jackson, while chief executive Peter Burdon announced he would stand down next July.

Burdon said: “In common with most retailers, the group’s performance is affected by the underlying economic climate. The full effects of recent economic events have yet to be seen, but we believe these provide us with opportunities as well as challenges, given the value nature of our offer.

“Nevertheless, in such circumstances our sector is likely to become ever more competitive, and we will have to ensure our sourcing remains robust if we are to continue to offer our customers best value.”