The group had warned that sales were likely to suffer when it reported a 16 per cent fall in annual pre-tax profits in March. However, the shares fell 11p to 159p yesterday. John Foster, finance director, said: "Very few shares changed hands, but the market makers marked us down even though we said nothing really new."
He said the store would benefit from improved circulation of customers following the completion of the first phase of refurbishment in July. Some analysts said the trading statement looked like a veiled profits warning. Last month Chris Ash stepped down as group chief executive in response to pressure from institutional investors. Stephen Woodbridge, deputy chairman, took charge of operations. Simon Burke, chief executive of Virgin Entertainment, is to succeed Mr Ash in August.
Group sales were 2.7 per cent up on the same period last year.