Pre-tax profits at young fashion giant River Island fell 14% to £138.6m in the year to 26 December 2009, as the company invested in developing its online presence, stores and supply chain.

Sales at the Lewis family-owned business grew 7.9% to £826.4m. Chief executive Ben Lewis described the showing as a “solid sales and a robust profit performance” in a “challenging year for fashion retail.” Lewis said his outlook remained cautious, and trading is understood to have been similarly challenging this year, with River Island, like many fashion retailers, experiencing volatile trading from week to week.

During the year the company launched its new website and refurbished its head office, while continuing to grow the business internationally, including making its debut in Russia. Last week it opened its first store in Belgium with a store in Antwerp, and today it opens in Selfridges new Shoe Galleries with what will be its only department store concession.

The company is developing a new distribution warehouse in Milton Keynes which will more than double the capacity of its existing shed nearby.