US jewellery retailer Signet said that total sales at its UK arm dropped 10.3% to $142m (£91.1m) in its second half to August 1.

Like-for-like sales fell 0.5% compared to a 4.3% drop for the same quarter the year before. In its first half sales across its UK fascias, which include H Samuel and Ernest Jones, were down 3.8% to $284.9m (£182.8m) and it said the UK market “remained challenging”.

Signet said the impact of the weak pound against the dollar, rising gold of gold and higher VAT rates had been partly offset by a number of price rises of its goods.

The group’s total like-for-like sales for the second quarter were up 4.5%with pre-tax profits soaring 48.8% to $57.3m (£36.7m).

Signet chief executive Terry Burman said: “The outlook for the rest of fiscal 2011 is uncertain. However we will continue to invest in the business, increase advertising during the holiday season and further the availability of differentiated merchandise , in an effort to continue to gain profitable market share.”