Trevor Bish-Jones, chief executive of Woolworth’s fought off shareholder criticism at the retailer’s annual general meeting yesterday.

Following the release of a poor trading update for the group just hours before the meeting, Bish-Jones said that a weak DVD schedule without major blockbusters had contributed to the 4.4% slip in like-for-like sales for the 18 weeks to June 4.

Bish-Jones also said that private equity group Apax had walked away from an £837m bid for Woolworths earlier this year because it was concerned about the general slowdown in retail sales and not because there was a black hole in Woolworths’ accounts.

And in a busy meeting, Bish-Jones said that the appointment of a new finance director following the departure of Christopher Rodgers in April would be “imminent”.

“After three months without a finance director, you realise they do have their uses,” he added.