Woolworths continues to feel the effect of difficult trading after reporting a 7.7 per cent fall in like-for-like sales.
The figure for the 25 weeks to last Saturday indicated a quickening in the downturn, as the retailer announced in June its sales were running 6.7 per cent lower.
Analysts said the numbers indicate double digit declines over the latter six weeks due to hot weather, the World Cup and the fact that the same period last year benefited from the release of the fifth Harry Potter book.
Despite the sales pressure, Woolworths said it still expected margins to be better than a year ago, reflecting improvements to its supply chain.
As well as an ongoing store refit programme, Woolies told shareholders that much was being done to make its products more attractive.
Next month the 97-year old group will start to market new services enabling online and store customers to specify either home delivery or collection for 250,000 products.
The company is also looking at the way it presents ranges, with 92 stores currently being upgraded to create a "shop within a shop" concept for the Ladybird clothing range.
Around 70 stores in the 800-strong estate underwent a wider refit during the half-year, with the new look branches reporting a "solid" sales uplift.
Woolworths added: "Work on our supply chain efficiency continues to produce good results. Encouraging reductions in stock levels continue while the quality of our stock improves."
Total sales, which include the impact of changes in trading space, showed a 3.1 per cent drop in the 25-week period.
Chief executive Trevor Bish-Jones said: "This performance shows that for us the current retail environment remains challenging."
Earlier this year, Woolworths lost a contract to supply Tesco with entertainment products such as CDs.
Entertainment UK (EUK), Woolworths' entertainment wholesaling business, saw third party sales up 10.7 per cent in the period, while Woolworths said it continued to seek new customers to replace the Tesco business, which ceases in April.
Woolworths makes around two-thirds of sales in the second half of its financial year on Christmas-related trade.
Mr Bish-Jones said Woolworths would embark on "pretty aggressive" advertising ahead of the holiday season.
He added that he believed the outlook for Woolworths' computer game sales was favourable given buoyant stock levels, the upcoming launch of the Playstation 3 game console and a stronger DVD release schedule.
"We lost market share in DVD, we gained market share in music and we probably have gained market share across computer games," he said.
But Richard Ratner, analyst at Seymour Pierce, cut his current year pretax profit forecast from £35 million to £33 million and forecast for the following year to £37 million. "It's a case of excellent management, awful company," he said.