Men's wear retailer Austin Reed says this year's results are likely to top forecasts after re-branding of the Country Casuals chain pushed up profitability.

Austin Reed's same-store sales for the 22 weeks ended 15 January 2005 increased 9.7 per cent, while sales at the Country Casuals chain dropped 5.9 per cent.

However, margins increased 6 per cent at Country Casuals after the company slashed its promotional activity and delayed the start of its winter sale.

Total group sales for rose 0.3 per cent in the 22-week period and increased 0.2 per cent on a like-for-like basis.