Budget clothing retailer New Look Group said Thursday it had made a strong start to the year, driven by the rollout of improvements to its store portfolio combined with a focus on affordable fashion.

"While we recognise that current market conditions may not continue, we are confident that New Look's strategy will deliver continued growth," chief executive Stephen Sunnucks said in a trading statement.

The Group added that total UK sales for the 15 weeks to 13 July were 12.3 per cent higher than the same period last year. Comparable sales rose 8.1 per cent.

The gross margin was ahead by 2.7 percentage points, reflecting a continued stronger mix of full price sales.

New Look, which has about 500 shops in the UK and a joint venture in France, has achieved rapid growth over recent years by moving into bigger stores, targeting an older age range, expanding its product range and getting the latest looks into the shops more quickly than rivals.

Sunnucks described June as an "average month" but, boosted by the World Cup, 125,000 England T-shirts were among the top selling items.

The company plans to open 20 large stores this year and accelerate refurbishments of smaller stores to 125 this year from 59 last year. It also wants to expand its joint venture in France.