UK supermarket group Sainsbury's today (11 November) booked an 18% rise in half-year profits, helped by strong sales of its non-food items - including fashion.

The retailer said non-food sales are growing around two and a half times faster than food, as it reported underlying pre-tax profits of GBP307m (US$514.2m) - an increase of 18.5% - for the six months to 3 October.

Revenues were up 3.7% at GBP11.16bn, while like-for-like sales, excluding fuel, climbed 5.7%.

Chief executive Justin King said that having "competed successfully through challenging economic conditions, the "time is right" for Sainsbury's to speed up its expansion plans.

In June, the company raised GBP432m to help it grow floor space by 15% by March 2011.

However, King also issued a note of caution on the second half of the retailer's fiscal year.

"As we enter the second half we expect the economic environment to remain challenging and market growth to slow due to reduced food price inflation," he said.

Click here for editorial insight into Sainsbury's first-half results.