A strong winter collection has helped to boost sales and margin performance for fashion retailer French Connection during the 16 weeks to 21 November. 

In a trading update today (30 November), the UK company said like-for-like sales in the UK and Europe climbed 0.2% during the period, compared to a 6.1% decline a year ago. Within that, full price like-for-like sales remained at around 6%. 

Gross margin increased over last year by 1.5% as the full price sales mix grew, coupled with improved input margins.

Chairman and CEO Stephen Marks he was "pleased" with the improved performance particularly in the UK/Europe retail stores, adding: "While we still have the all-important Christmas period to come, we expect the results for the full year to be in line with market expectations." 

Meanwhile, the group said it expects to close a further seven "non-contributing" stores during the second half of the year as it continues to look to rationalise its overall store portfolio. 

French Connection will also vacate its Regent Street, London store at the end of March, receiving a GBP2.4m (US$3.6m) compensation payment, removing the ongoing trading losses of the store.

The company's share price was up 25.1% to 38 pence at 11:18 GMT.