UPDATE 1-Retailer Joules warns of more pain ahead after holiday store sales plunge

(Adds details on online sales, background and shares)

Jan 7 (Reuters) - British fashion retailer Joules Group on Thursday reported a 58% plunge in total store sales for a seven-week period that includes the holiday season and warned of a hit of up to 18 million pounds if the new COVID-19 curbs continued.

However, the company’s retail sales through its websites - including sales through the Friends of Joules digital marketplace - were up 66% year on year, as more customers took to online purchases during the pandemic.

Shares of the retailer, which shed nearly 26% of their value in 2020, opened lower on the London Stock Exchange but climbed 2% by 0840 GMT.

This holiday season presented British retailers with a unique challenge as they navigated strict virus-related restrictions while also preparing for Britain’s departure from the European Union.

Making matters worse, the country went into a full national lockdown again earlier this week as it deals with a new fast-spreading variant of the virus.

Joules estimated the potential loss in revenues to be 14 million pounds ($19.01 million) to 18 million pounds if the new restrictions continue through to April. ($1 = 0.7364 pounds) (Reporting by Indranil Sarkar in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V)