Moss Bros sounded a note of caution ahead of the crucial Christmas trading period despite an uplift in like-for-like sales during the first eight weeks of the second half.

The retailer unveiled a first-half pre-tax loss of £3m over the six months to August 1, against a £2.2m loss for the same period last year. Total sales fell 0.6% to £60.7m, while like-for-like sales dropped 2.6% over the period. However, the retailer said it succeeded in maintaining a 56% gross margin.

Despite the improving sales trend, Moss Bros chief executive Brian Brick said he was cautious ahead of Christmas, but was wary of a potential “double dip” in the economy.

He said: “We are feeling more optimistic but the double dip scenario could have a serious impact on sales.” He said rising unemployment could be challenge to trading.

Brick, who has been at the helm of the retailer for six months, said that like-for-like sales have “continued to improve” in the first eight weeks of the second half.

A revamped product range at Moss Bros and improvements to in-store customer service helped.

The menswear retailer said it will meet its expectations for the full year. David Stoddart retail analyst at Moss Bros house broker Altium said: “Even if upgrades follow later in the second half, Moss Bros will remain loss-making this year. Indeed, we currently model losses persisting for another two years.”

Brick said: “We wouldn’t disagree with that, but internally all management expect to do better.”