Variety store chain Woolworths said confectionery sales in the run up to Easter were disappointing and that like-for-like retail sales declined 0.6% in the 13 weeks to May 3.

Total sales at Woolworths - which include the main chain, Big W outlets and music to video retailer MVC - were up 1.3% to £549m, but flat when compared with last year.

The company noted that if confectionery sales were stripped out like-for-like retail sales for the first quarter were up 0.8%.

Like-for-like sales for the main Woolworths chain fell by 0.4%, Big W increased by 1.1% while MVC lost 4.7%.

Chief executive Trevor Bish-Jones said: “Whilst the performance in confectionery in the week before Easter was disappointing, steady progress continues to be made in the business and the plans for the all important second half of the year are in good shape.”