Supermarket retailer Sainsbury's today (13 November) hailed "strong growth" in its general merchandise and clothing sales as it booked a 9.1% rise in first-half pre-tax profits.

The UK's third-largest grocer by sales reported pre-tax profits of GBP433m (US$689.3m) for the 28 weeks to 28 September. Underlying pre-tax profits, which strips out items including property proceeds, were up 7% at GBP400m.

Net profit was up 9.3% at GBP340m.

Revenue, excluding VAT but including fuel, grew 4.3% to GBP12.68bn. Like-for-like sales were up 1.4%.

The retailer said general merchandise and clothing sales were growing at around twice the rate of food sales, helped by the successfully re-launch of its Tu clothing brand and the extension of the Sainsbury's brand into general merchandise.

"We have had a strong first half to the year, outperforming the market in what remains a tough trading environment," chairman David Tyler said.

Commenting last month on the retailer's second quarter sales, company chief executive Justin King said the Tu brand was now available in more than 400 stores.

As well as helping to lift revenues by moving into higher margin areas like clothing, Sainsbury's was boosted during the second quarter by its “biggest ever” back to school event, during which it sold more than 1m polo shirts and more than 500,000 pairs of school trousers.