Women's wear retailer Alexon Group cited an "increasingly challenging" UK high street as it posted an 11% like-for-like sales decline for the 17 weeks to 22 November.

The company, which operates the Ann Harvey and the Bay Trading ranges, saw like-for-like sales fall 6% in the eight weeks to 20 September 2008, with gross margins level with last year.

"Trading during October and November has become increasingly challenging across the retail sector and in common with many other retailers we have seen a deterioration in sales performance to a level slightly below our expectations," a statement by the company said.

Alexon said that a strategy of minimising excess stock ahead of the spring season, together with increased promotional activity within department stores, meant that gross margins during the 17-week period were 1% lower.

Stock levels across the group were lower than last year, and it expects to end the year with terminal stocks "well under control".

A statement went onto say: "The general outlook for the consumer environment in 2009 is widely expected to be very challenging, however we are confident that the strategy we are implementing will strengthen the business going forward.

"We have strengthened the management team who are focused on achieving brand clarity, and delivering improved product value through enhanced supply chain management all of which will better position the group for the future."