Home shopping group N Brown like-for-likes rose 2% in the 19 weeks to January 7.

Total sales increased 2.3%. 

N Brown said trading was flat in October and November but picked up in December. 

Online sales rose 9% and are now represent half of N Brown’s total revenue.

The retailer expects gross margin to be almost one percentage point below last year, as a result of “additional promotional activity in the second half” as it aimed to drive sales.

N Brown opened two Simply Be stores last year, and both have been “well received and have attracted predominantly new customers thereby expanding the brand’s reach in plus size fashion”.

It said it has committed to five more stores in 2012. 

N Brown international sales have “met expectations” in the USA.  

The retailer’s financial position of the group “remains strong and has not materially changed since the interim results”.

N Brown said: “The board believes we can deliver performance in line with our expectations for the year ending March 3, subject to a reasonable reaction from our customers to the new spring catalogues which are being despatched in January and February. 

“Looking further into 2012 we do not expect life to be easy for our customers but the expected reduction in the rate of inflation, especially for clothing and footwear, should help to prevent the financial pressure on them rising further. 

“We will continue to drive for growth in our core UK home shopping business, particularly through the online channel, as well as focusing on our strategic opportunities in multi-channel stores and international markets.”