The Benetton Group has increased half-year net income by 2% to reach EUR72m (US$106m), with apparel sales growing strongly and giant leaps being made in emerging markets.

Group net revenues for the first six months grew 2.9% to EUR996m, consistent with full-year revenue forecasts previously communicated. This increase, at constant exchange rates and on a like-for-like basis, was equivalent to 5.1%.

Its apparel segment grew to EUR948m, up 5.8% at constant exchange rates.

Emerging markets identified by the group, including Russia and ex-Soviet Union countries, Turkey, India, Great China and Latin America, grew by 25% bringing their contribution to 11% of total revenues.

In India, the first Benetton Man store has opened in New Delhi, in Connaught Place, with over 300 square metres of floor space dedicated to casual and formal wear.

The company has also signed a deal with Sears, a distribution company owned by the multinational Grupo Carso in Mexico for the development of United Colors of Benetton in that country, with a development programme for around 250 points of sale in the next three years.

In addtion, Benetton's offices in Miami, Florida have become operative, the company said, managing all US retail activities that were previously based in Washington. The Miami offices, strategically located between North and South America, supervise the commercial and sourcing activities of the area, it said.

Gross operating profit was 46.4% of revenues compared with 43.7% in the first half, positively influenced by the combined effects of mix, as well as the ever greater efficiency of supply chain management and sourcing activities, the company said.

Benetton said its children's wear "System" concept was rolled out in Milan for around three months - its first temporary store for children offering by age range. Its Benetton Baby stores - targeting the newborn to five years age band and new mothers - saw the opening of 35 dedicated stores, the company added.

Particular emphasis was also given in the first six months to Benetton's underwear business. For the 2008 autumn/winter season, the Baby Under line was launched, which completes its Undercolors collections. This product line will be distributed in specific corners in around 500 Undercolors network stores.

In addition, the totally new Sisley Underwear line has been created and will be given a special launch for the forthcoming Christmas Season, Benetton revealed.

Furthermore, the company said that it men's shirts have registered an increase of around 40% in the last two years, with Benetton Man seeing the opening of 30 new stores in the first-half.

The group confirmed its 2008 full-year objectives, for revenues to grow by around 6%, and EBITDA and income from operations up by at least 7% compared with 2007.