Department store group Allders on Wednesday posted a sharp fall in fiscal 2002 pre-tax profit to £7.8 million from £14.4m in the year-ago period and said sales at the start of the new fiscal year were slow.

The company said turnover for fiscal 2002 climbed 3.3 per cent to £560m but said sales at some of its newly-opened stores were below expectations and said same-store sales in the eight weeks to November 23 were down two per cent.

The operator of more than 40 stores, which is being seen as a takeover target by property group Minerva, added the UK retail environment remained tough and it had cut its number of suppliers.