Budget retailer Instore has announced a like-for-like decrease in sales for the past six months despite consumers increasingly looking for value as the economic downturn bites.

Total sales increased by just 1.5% over the period to 30 August £135.8m – reflecting a drop in like-for-like sales of 1.4%.

Attributing the disappointing performance to “unfavourable weather” during the first quarter and rising energy costs, the group – which includes the Poundstretcher fascia as well as trading under the Instore banner – announced an operating loss of £6.3m, an increase on the £3.5m losses racked up last year.

“Comparable trading in the first half was tough as a result of the weather being considerably worse than the spring and early summer of last year [while] increased energy costs brought a further challenge for the business,” said Instore chief executive Peter Burdon. “ Nevertheless, the continuing improvements in the offer, investment in the stores and the efficiency of the business is starting to be reflected positively in our trading performance”

He added: “Consumers of all demographics are keenly seeking value and we are well positioned to take advantage of this trend. Plans for Christmas have been well laid and, although we remain cautiously confident, the full year outcome is dependent on this key trading period.”