Debenhams first half pretax profit has exceeded expectations, increasing 1.4% to £127.1m as its strategy to push international and multichannel drove growth.

In the 26 weeks to March 3 group gross transaction value jumped up 1.4% to £1.5bn while like-for-likes grew 1.4% including VAT, edging up 0.3% excluding VAT.

Online sales grew 34.7%, as the retailer expanded online delivery to 40 countries.

Debenhams chief executive Michael Sharp said: “We are pleased with our results for the first half, with profit before tax ahead of market expectations despite the challenges presented by the overall retail climate and unfavourable weather conditions in the autumn.

“I set out the four pillars of our strategy to brand in October last year. 

“I am encouraged by the strong execution over the last six months and am confident of the long-term success of this strategy and the benefits it will bring to our business and our shareholders.”

But he added that the retailer is cautiously entering the second half of the year, watching the impact of the wider economy on consumer behaviour and the “uncertain effects” of the Olympics and Jubilee taking place this summer.

“Disruption from the store modernisation programme will also be at its highest during the second half,” he added.

Debenhams plans to open an 14 new UK stores by 2017 and has 13 international stores are in the pipeline after opening three in the period.