Home shopping group Findel sales advanced 4.5% in the 15 weeks to January 17.

The jump at the group, which began its three-year turnaround plan in June, was ahead of the 2.9% rise it experienced in the 8 week period to November 25.

Its core Express Gifts business continued to experience “strong growth” since the half year with sales up 11.1%, an advance of 0.2% since the 8 week update.

The retailer said Express Gifts had experienced its strongest Christmas for four years. Its move to lower prices at the gifts specialist had resulted in a 5.4% increase in active customer numbers over the last 12 months. 

It expects to deliver a strong operating profit for the business for the year.

Its sportswear business Kitbag experienced sales growth of 2% however Findel said “significant levels” of promotional activities were needed to stimulate the growth.

This was down to both the challenging economic and competitive environment and also the poorer performance of some of its sporting partners compared to last season. It said the promotions have suppressed its gross margin.

The sportswear business is to report a significant operating loss in the second half. Kitbag’s new management team, led by Andy Anson, the man who led England’s failed 2018 World Cup bid, is “vigorously addressing” the issues holding back profitability. Contract renegotiations with its sporting partners are progressing and it said its pipeline of new potential contracts was strong, with a number of new deals in the offing.

Decline continued to narrow at its Kleeneze mail order business. It slipped 1.2% in the 15 weeks, as opposed to the 2.5% drop in the first 8 weeks of the period.

For the year-to-date, group sales have nudged up 1.6%.

It said:  “We do not anticipate this environment becoming easier. We remain focussed on implementing our three year plan. The board continues to believe that the group will deliver improved results in the second half versus the prior year, which in turn will be the start of a trend leading to improved shareholder returns over the medium term.”