N Brown, the British internet and catalogue home shopping firm, returned to sales growth in the run-up to Christmas, though to achieve this it had to step-up promotions.

The Manchester, northwest England, based company, which targets mature and larger customers, said on Wednesday revenue increased 2.3 percent in the 19 weeks to January 7, with like-for-like revenue, excluding sales from new stores, up 2.0 percent.

That compares with a like-for-like sales fall of 1.5 percent in the six weeks to October 8.

The firm said additional promotional activity to drive sales growth will reduce the rate of gross margin for the year to March 3. It is expected to be almost one percentage point below last year's level.

N Brown said its two Simply Be concept stores had been well received and it has committed to five more stores in 2012.

It said international sales had met expectations in the United States.

With British shoppers' disposable incomes squeezed by rising prices, muted wages growth and government austerity measures, store chains generally had a tough Christmas, using early sales to attract customers. They do not expect 2012 to be much better.

N Brown, whose other brands include Jacamo, Marisota and Oxendales, said it would deliver full year results in line with expectations subject to a reasonable reaction from customers to new spring catalogues.

Shares in N Brown, which have lost 20 percent of their value over the last year, closed at 242 pence on Tuesday, valuing the business at 685 million pounds.

(Reporting by James Davey)