British luxury goods firm Burberry Group Plc today (15 July) said it has made "a solid start to the year" after first quarter sales rose 8% as new store openings helped offset a slowdown in wholesale revenues.

For the three months to 30 June, sales rose to GBP229m (US$375m) from GBP221m in the same period a year ago. On a constant-currency basis, though, they fell 4%.

Retail revenue was up 28% percent, or 12% on a constant-currency basis, offsetting a 21% fall in wholesale revenues as its department store customers cut stock levels.

Angela Ahrendts, chief executive officer, said that while the environment remains "challenging," the company continues to "execute on our strategies by product, region and channel, while driving operational and cost efficiencies."

She added: "Our brand momentum, strong product designs and continuing back-of-house improvements mean that we are well-placed to deliver sustainable long-term growth."

Highlights of the quarter included 13% growth in Asia Pacific, and a rise of 8% each in EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) and the Americas.

Demand in Europe and Asia was driven by favourable currency movements in the UK and Korea, Burberry said, cautioning that the US and Spain "remain difficult."

Comparable store sales in the quarter were flat year-on-year, with shoppers snapping up the new spring/summer accessories, men's tailoring, denim, sport and children's wear.

At its wholesale division, the company expects wholesale revenue to be down by about 25% at constant exchange rates for the six months to 30 September, as it closes its Thomas Burberry line, shuts many small European accounts, and shifts its Middle East business from wholesale to retail.

Total licensing revenue in the first quarter was up 12%, or 3% on a constant-currency basis, helped by royalty receipts, mainly in Japan.

The group expects licensing revenue to increase in the year to March 2010, but says it could fall by between 10% and 15% on a constant-currency basis.

Burberry, which has 118 retail stores, 253 concessions, 47 outlets, 84 franchise stores and e-commerce in over 25 countries, plans to open 10-15 mainline stores this year.