Footwear giant Clarks expects its online operation to become a £20m business in the next year, as it gears up to take the website international.

Clarks launched its UK transactional website in October last year, which has generated £3.4m of sales to date. It is understood that Clarks will roll out its transactional site to its international markets once it is satisfied with the UK operation.

The UK site was revamped earlier this year in an attempt to make it more user friendly – introducing new navigation options and creating additional space for
promotional offers. Clarks said online is an important part of its growth ambitions.

Clarks has continued to defy the recession, which has hit the footwear sector particularly hard. The retailer has reported turnover in the year to January 31 up 6.6 per cent to £1.1bn with pre-tax profit up 15.6 per cent to £86.8m. 

In figures filed at Companies House, Clarks pointed out the difficulties in the shoe sector, with Stead & Simpson and Stylo both falling into administration. Clarks said that it was not immune to market turbulence. However, chairman Peter Davies told Retail Week that its brand would help it maintain its resilience compared with some of its rivals.

“We are a trusted brand. We stay true to our values and that seems to be working for us,” he said.

This year Clarks will also launch its first sports footwear range, which the retailer hopes will win it more market share.

Like-for-like sales for the year continued ahead of the wider fashion sector, up 2.3 per cent, although margins had been hit by the downturn.

Clarks remains hopeful that the stronger dollar will not affect its business this year as it is hedged for the whole of this year and much of next year.

Internationally, the retailer said it was close to signing with a major Indian retail partner in a joint venture that would expand its presence in the developing market. It expects this partnership to start at the end of this year.