Primark has posted a jump in profits and sales during its first half as new store openings boosted revenues.

The value fashion retailer delivered a 3.2% uplift in operating profit at actual exchange rates to £323m during the 24 weeks to March 4, its owner Associated British Foods (ABF) said.

Sales during the period spiked 11% year-on-year on the same basis to £3.2bn.

In the UK, Primark sales grew 7% on a total basis and 2% in like-for-like terms.

During the period, it launched five new stores across Britain, in Carlisle, Colchester, Stafford, Truro and York.

New UK stores

The openings contributed to an 800,000 sq ft increase in selling space across its portfolio, with a further 11 new stores in Ireland, the US, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands throwing open their doors during the period.

As of March 4, Primark operated 13.1m sq ft of selling space across 329 stores.

Despite Primark’s solid performance during the first half, ABF said that operating profit margin declined “as forecast”, as the tumbling value of the pound impacted the fashion chain’s input costs.

‘Greater margin decline’

ABF cautioned that the “full effect” of sterling weakness against the US dollar would result in “a greater margin decline” in its second half, because currency hedges were “at more advantageous exchange rates” in the period to March 4.

However, ABF insisted that Primark remained “committed to price leadership” and said it was working hard to reduce the currency impact on margins.

At a group level, ABF adjusted pre-tax profit soared 35% to £624m, on sales of £7.29bn.