Embattled JJB Sports has reported a pre-tax loss of £68.6m in its full year results and sales collapsed 42% as the retailer warned its recovery will be “neither quick nor easy”.

For the year to January 31, total retail sales were £372.5m, against £647.8m the year before. Chief executive Keith Jones said: “This year under review was the most difficult in the history of JJB Sports, when the business faced a fight for survival. The fact that it did survive is in large part down to the hard work and dedication of JJB’s management and staff.”

JJB said it has seen some signs of improvement in the new financial year. Like for like sales have risen from -2% in February to +19% in May. It said total group revenue was however 15% lower, due to the timing of the administration of OSC and Qube and the disposal of the leisure division which occurred in this same period in the prior year.

It said stock for the World Cup has been well received over recent weeks improving its stock holding position. As of May 23, it had a net cash position of £5.6m and full access to its banking facility.

The retailer has appointed John Clare as chairman, effective immediately. Clare joined the board in July 2009 as senior independent non-executive director, and has been acting chairman since January 31.

Clare said: “JJB’s recovery will be neither quick nor easy. The company suffered considerably through all the events of last year and it will take time to encourage customers back into our stores and rebuild our credibility as Britain’s leading sports retailer.

“We operate in a large and attractive market, estimated to be worth more than £5 billion.  We have restocked our stores and we are once again making better use of our retail space.  We will test new format stores over the summer, which, if successful, will provide us with a template for future investment. Much remains to be done, but we have made a start and the early signs are encouraging. We look to the future with cautious optimism.”