Speciality retailer The Wet Seal registered a near 50% increase in second quarter profits, despite posting a fall in comparable store sales.

The US company's sales for the three months to 2 August were up 4% to US$149.1m, which helped first-half sales to move up 3.6% to $291.5m.

Second quarter comparable store sales declined 4.4%, while for the half the fall was 5.9%.Falls were particularly pronounced at the retailer's Arden B stores.

The Wet Seal posted operating income of $11.8m in the second quarter, well up on last year's figure of $5.8m.

Net income was $10.1m, 49% up on last year, while for the half, net income was $19.1m, compared to $14.3m in 2007.

Company CEO Ed Thomas said the company was pleased with the second quarter results, considering the difficult retail environment.

"With many economic factors continuing to pressure the consumer as we entered the back to school selling season, we are staying the course with highly disciplined cost and inventory management under the assumption that the retail environment will remain challenging at least through year-end," he added.

The Wet Seal is now projecting third quarter earnings per share of $0.05-0.07, based on forecast net sales of $144.5-149.1m, and a comparable store sales decline of 6-9%.