Variety store group Woolworths revealed a like-for-like sales decline of 6.7 per cent at its core retail business in the six weeks to July 26.

Group sales for the 25 weeks to July 26 slid 3.1 per cent and sales for Woolworths Retail dropped 3.2 per cent.

A high proportion of sales came from low-margin entertainment products such as CDs and DVDs, which, along with clearance, means that margin in the first half is likely to be down 125 basis points versus last year.

Its joint venture with BBC Worldwide, 2 Entertain, reported sales up 12.8 per cent for the 25 weeks to July 26 compared with the same period last year.

The retailer has decided to focus on small to medium-sized stores in future, which it said offers a “considerable opportunity to build a sustainable value retail proposition”. It added that it will complete its deal to offload four stores to Waitrose by late summer, generating£25.5 million for Woolworths.

Woolworths is still hunting for a chief executive to replace Trevor Bish-Jones, who will stand down in September, six years after joining the value retailer.

Woolworths chairman Richard North said: “We remain cautious about the outlook for retail given the background of a weakening consumer economy. But we have strong operational management in place in all parts of the business that are working hard to ensure that the needs of all our customers – both wholesale and retail – continue to be met.”