Arcadia, the Topshop-to-Bhs British retail group owned by billionaire Philip Green, added to the bad news coming from the UK high street, posting a 38 per cent fall in year profit and a further deterioration in recent trading as mild weather deterred winter clothing purchases.
The group, which also owns the Topman, Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridge, Wallis and Evans brands, said on Thursday it made a pretax profit of £133.1m in the year to 27 August, down from £213.2m in the 2009-10 year.
Total sales, from 2,507 owned stores and 600 franchised outlets in 36 countries, fell 3.4 per cent to £2.683bn. E-commerce sales did, however, rise 27 per cent.
Sales at UK stores open over a year, including VAT sales tax, fell 1.8 per cent, with the group badly hit by last December's heavy snow.
Margin fell 1.8 percentage points after the firm chose not to pass on cost increases to customers. That cost the group £52.4m.
Like-for-like sales, including VAT, were down 4.4 percent in the first 12 weeks of the new financial year.
"Trading conditions remain extremely challenging, with style, quality and value at the top of our agenda and more important than ever. Additionally, the warmest October and November on record have made Autumn trading much tougher," said Monaco-based Green.
He said the firm's young fashion brands Topshop, Topman and Miss Selfridge were trading positively.
Britons have been feeling the pinch as disposable incomes are squeezed by rising prices, muted wage growth and government austerity measures, and as they worry about a stagnant housing market, job security, a fragile economic recovery and the euro zone debt crisis.
Arcadia generated cash of £297.4m during the year and cut its bank debt to £444.5m.
But for the sixth year running Green, whose family ranked thirteenth on the 2011 Sunday Times UK rich list with an estimated fortune of £4.2bn, did not pay himself a dividend.
In 2005 Green geared up the business to pay his family a £1.2bn dividend.