Half-year figures due Sept. 21.

British retail and entertainment conglomerate Woolworths Group Plc today (July 25) reiterated that trading has "remained difficult" as like-for-like revenue declined by 4.4% in its latest reporting period.

"The retail environment remains challenging and against this background we continue to be disciplined about controlling costs and stock while taking action to improve the group's businesses," Woolworths CEO Trevor Bish-Jones said with regards to the 24-week period ending July 16.

The chain's gross margins will be slightly below last year, the company said.

During the period, third party sales at wholesale distribution arm Entertainment U.K. were up 16.1%. EUK supplies CDs and DVDs to retailer WH Smith and supermarket chains Tesco and Waitrose.

The company also said today that the sale of its dedicated music and video chain MVC should be completed by the end of the year. Woolworths announced in March that it was looking to sell off the underperforming unit.

Woolworths has traditionally been a leading player in British music retail. In 2003, the 800-plus-store chain accounted for 11.2% of album sales and 29.5% of singles sales in the United Kingdom, according to the British Phonographic Industry.

The company is expected to unveil its half-year results to end-July on Sept. 21. Its stock was 2% down to 36p in morning trading on the London Stock Exchange.

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