Sales at B&M Bargains fell as the business faced tough comparisons with strong trade during the Covid-19 lockdowns a year ago when it remained open as a so-called “essential” retailer.

In the UK, like-for-like sales dropped 4.4% in the 13 weeks to June 26 – although they remained 21.3% up on a year-on-year, pre-pandemic basis – as the company faced greater competition with the rest of the high street reopening in April.

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Stronger sales in B&M’s French business and the opening of new stores in the UK helped total revenues rise 3.1% to £1.19 billion, it added.

In France, its Babou stores increased sales to £68.5 million compared with £54 million in the same period a year ago.

Sales in B&M’s Heron Foods division fell from £113 million to £101.7 million.

Chief executive Simon Arora said: “The group has made a strong start to the new financial year and sales remain significantly above pre-pandemic levels.

“As expected, trading throughout the first quarter was volatile as we annualised against the high comparatives from last year.

“Although there remains much uncertainty as to how consumer spending evolves over the coming months, we remain optimistic that our combination of exceptional value across a wide range of product categories and our convenient out-of-town locations will continue to resonate with customers.”

During the 13-week period, gardening demand was boosted during the hot weather; however, this fell back as cooler temperatures hit the UK.

Seven B&M stores were opened in the period, with four closing, the company added.