Midland photography specialist Jessops posted an 18 per cent fall in half-year profits after a sudden collapse in sales of digital cameras.
The Leicester-based group, which has 276 stores, described how a market that had shown steady growth in the previous three months unexpectedly ground to a halt in February, prompting it to warn in mid-March that profits would miss expectations.
The full impact of the " extremely difficult" period - the worst since the launch of digital cameras in the mid-1990s - was revealed in half-year figures yesterday.
They showed profits of £5.7 million, against £7 million last year.
Jessops said sales since the beginning of March had shown some improvement but were still down 2.4 per cent on a like-for-like basis. Analysts estimated the figure could have fallen by up to ten per cent in February.
As a result of the weakness, Jessops said it was making efficiencies in the day-to-day running of the business, although a spokesman said this did not involve job losses.
And with the important summer period still to come, Jessops said it was too early to predict the outcome for the year. In March, analysts cut forecasts for full-year pretax profits by around 20 per cent to £17 million.
The group, which joined the London stock market in November, said it achieved a solid trading performance over the Christmas period but was caught out by the collapse in sales in February.
It pointed to industry data showing that growth in the UK digital cameras market fell to just 0.1 per cent in February.
Shares in Jessops closed last night down 2.75p at 85p.