Leading women's fashion chain New Look Group Plc on Thursday posted a 1.4 per cent hike in same-store sales for the first five weeks of the second half.

The Weymouth-based operator of 500 stores said same-store sales for the 26 weeks to September 27 fell 3.6 per cent although total sales rose by the same amount.

It added profit margins improved during the first half thanks to tight cost and inventory control and said recent sales had improved due to the successful launch of its autumn fashion collection.

Chief executive Stephen Sunnucks said: "The difficulties of the summer season are now behind us and we are encouraged by recent trading.

”We remain up against strong sales comparatives for much of the autumn. Our strategy is firmly on track and we continue to be focused on delivering profitable growth.”

He added the firm, which has started selling menswear on a trial basis, will accelerate its store opening programme and said same-store sales at its French banner Mim slipped 2.5 per cent in the first half.

Last month, company founder Tom Singh was reported to have bid £662 million for the retailer as he looks to take it private.