UK-based department stores group Allders unveiled double-digit sales growth in womenswear.

In sharp contrast to M&S, the UK#;s largest clothing retailer, Allders said turnover in the division surged 11 per cent in the six months to March 31. Strong sales of clothing, furniture and household goods compensated for a weaker performance in floor coverings and cosmetics to produce a 6.5 per cent increase in comparable sales over the period. Group turnover rose 5.7 per cent to £298m.

Improved trading combined with a 0.6 per cent increase in gross margin to 36.4 per cent helped Allders to lift underlying pre-tax profits from £13.3m to £14.2m.

Allders, which currently operates 38 stores, expects to have a portfolio of 70 outlets in five years#; time, with the emphasis on store openings likely to be in the out-of-town and high street furnishings formats. The interim dividend is unchanged at 3.4p. The shares slipped 1½p to 161½p.