The mother and baby products chain saw its first drop in sales in 19 quarters. UK like-for-like sales fell 1.6 per cent in the 11 weeks to 27 March, with heavy snow in January keeping shoppers away. It said the weaker-than-expected performance was offset by tight cost control and a strong performance overseas. International sales were up 19.3 per cent.
Chief executive Ben Gordon said: "It's very difficult to know what's going to happen in the UK and we're taking a cautious view."
Retailers are worried that steps to reduce government debt, such as higher taxes and public spending cuts, could hit consumers after the general election, expected to be on 6 May. For the time being, many are benefiting from rises in disposable incomes after cuts in mortgage rates.
Department store chain John Lewis reported a 19 per cent jump in sales for the week ended 27 March. The firm's Aberdeen store was the only branch to suffer a fall, with sales down 7.6 per cent, year on year.