French Connection saw like-for-like retail sales in the UK and Europe fall 1.9% for the 14 weeks ended May 14, but performance was ahead of plan and better than last year thanks to improved gross margin and cost controls.

French Connection said that there had been an “encouraging” sales performance on its menswear over the period, which demonstrated early signs of recovery. Menswear performance had dragged the overall recovery of the French Connection business down over the last 12 to 18 months.

However womenswear performance was softer.

The retailer and brand added that gross margin had benefitted from less discounting.

Wholesale sales were ahead of last year during the period while autumn 10 wholesale sales are also ahead thanks to improved sell-throughs from the brand.

French Connection said in a statement: “Looking forward, we are pleased with the early results from our current men’s wear ranges in our retail stores and we are aiming to improve on this through the rest of the year while maintaining last year’s strength in ladies’ wear.”

“The UK fashion retail market appears to have been resilient in recent months but there is not certainty this will continue through the rest of the year and we are planning accordingly.”