Clarks has revealed an annual profits rise of 16 per cent and said it will capitalise on the “relative disarray” of its high street competitors.

The privately-owned retailer plans to rationalise its portfolio of 400 UK high street stores after revealing that its direct sales website had “made a highly encouraging start”.

Chief executive Peter Bolliger said that Clarks should benefit from the “relative disarray of our competitors” and gain market share.

The shoe sector has experience a series of high profile administrations including Stead & Simpson and the Stylo, Barratt and Priceless chains.

However, Bolliger forecast that sales would be flat in the UK this year and that it would experience moderate falls in the US, where the retailer generates just under half its retail and wholesale shoe sales.

Trading profits are set to fall in the first half with an improvement in the second half, he added.

He said Clarks, which employs 11,300 people, will move “progressively to reduce our exposure to costly store-based infrastructure”, following the successful launch of its website in October.

According to figures filed at Companies House, pre-tax profits were £86.8m in the year to the end of January. Group sales were £1.1bn, up 6.6 per cent.