By contrast, retail sales were up 1.2 per cent and directory sales rose 4.6 per cent. Overall sales (including directory) rose 2.2 per cent. The retailer said: 'The present retail like-for-like performance represents a significant improvement on the -7.2 per cent experienced last year and reflects some of the changes made to our product ranges and marketing.'
However, the retailer said that it remains cautious about trade for the rest of the year and intends to make further improvements to its ranges, marketing and shopfit in the coming months. It expects like-for-like sales in the second half to be better than those in the first.
Seymour Pierce analyst Richard Ratner said: 'Like-for-like sales [are] disappointing, given how well some of its competitors fared.'
The retailer operates from 336 stores, but is aiming to increase its retail space by 400,000 sq ft during the year.
Separately, non-executive director Derek Netherton has announced that he is to retire from the group next year, after 10 years. Whitehead Mann chief executive officer Steve Barber has been appointed non-executive director and will also sit on the audit committee, with effect from June 1.