Home shopping fashion retailer N Brown posted a 2.5% lift in pretax profit to £96.9m for the 53 weeks to March 3 as its online lingerie business Figleaves made its first ever profit.

Revenue at the group which also includes brands Simply B, Jacamo and Marisota, increased 4.8% to £753.2m and online sales advanced 16%, delivering £377m as the business drove multichannel and added new products.

Across the year like-for-like sales grew 1.6%.

Chairman Lord Alliance of Manchester said it was a “robust” performance despite the “difficult” trading environment.

Across the 53-week period online sales reached 50% of total sales for the first time.

N Brown “radically pruned” the cost base of Figleaves to deliver its first profit in its 13-year history.

Since the financial year end, like-for-likes have slowed, edging up 0.6% in the eight weeks ended April 28. But the group said although customer confidence “remains fragile” it believes the second half of the year will improve as inflation and income growth become balanced.

It added: “In a weak economic environment any improvement to our competitive position must therefore come through our own actions. We believe that we have the required plans and platform in place for growth in these market conditions.”

Chief executive Alan White said: “Looking ahead, our multichannel strategy, combined with our focus on niche customers and products and the flexibility of our business model will look to overcome the challenging macro-economic conditions.

“The Board remains remains confident that we will continue to make progress this year.”

The retailer also said it would be offering customers lower prices in the Autumn and will drive key value lines, while investing in marketing strategies for fewer brands than usual.

Across the year the group opened two Simply Be concept stores and four more since the year-end “to test whether a full multichannel operation can drive sufficient incremental sales to justify the investment and fixed costs”.

It said it will be evaluating these stores at the end of 2012.