Belgian shoe chain Brantano on Thursday reported a 3.1 per cent hike in first half sales as it was boosted by strong demand for its footwear fashions at home and in the UK.

The operator of nearly 320 stores across northern Europe said sales for the six months to the end of June rose to 149.9 million euros from 145.5 million euros in the year-ago period.

UK sales rose 10.6 per cent year-on-year to 68.1 million euros partly due to its acquisition of 28 Famous Brunswick stores in late 2002, with Belgian and Luxembourg sales up 4.6 per cent year-on-year to 68.6 million euros.

Sales at its troubled Dutch division, which has been restructured, slumped 38.6 per cent to 8.8 million euros from last year on a lower store base and tough trading conditions.

"Very good work was again done in Belgium and the UK during the first half year," said Brantano managing director Joris Brantegem in a press release.

"In Belgium we are succeeding in increasing like-for-like turnover year after year. As a result, turnover increased by 18.6 per cent in comparable shops over the past three years.

"In the UK we opened a net figure of 31 shops in the first half year. The number of shops consequently rose from 96 to 127, which means an increase of almost one third.

"Despite the fact that this burdened the English organisation heavily, we also continued to work on an increase in turnover in the existing shops. We succeeded in doing so with a like-for-like growth in turnover of 2.9 per cent."

He added: "We are also succeeding in increasing the like-for-like turnover year after year in the UK Thus turnover grew by 14.8 per cent in comparable outlets over the last three years."

The company did not give any update on its earlier full year sales forecast of 333 million euros versus 299.4 million euros last year.