Sales at House of Fraser affected by August's washout
Department store chain House of Fraser - anchor tenant at Belfast's Victoria Square shopping centre - posted a hike in half-year earnings, but said sales were hit amid the washout August weather.
The group saw like-for-like sales growth slow since a robust first half as the retail sector suffered during last month's disappointing end to the summer.
Sales have bounced back in September, but overall growth has still slowed from 6.5% in the first 26 weeks to 5.3% in the 33 weeks so far, according to the group.
But House of Fraser, which has 60 stores across the UK and Ireland, said it remained hopeful of a "successful autumn/winter season". There are no separate figures for the Belfast store.
Underlying earnings in the half-year rose 7% to £9.2m, with online sales proving the star performer after jumping 30.8% in the six months to August 1.
Like-for-like sales across its stores rose by 2%. The group has boosted its online offering after extending its buy and collect deadline to midnight for pick-up the next day.
Retail expert Dr Karise Hutchinson, head of the Ulster University department of business and enterprise, said House of Fraser was "a good example of retail spanning physical and digital".
But she said department store John Lewis, which has yet to establish a physical presence in Northern Ireland, was "in a class of its own" in cross-channel retailing.
House of Fraser had also increased ranges by adding concession partners such as Victoria Beckham Jeans, as well as Rugby World Cup branded products.
The group said menswear sales leapt 10.5% higher in the half-year, with its homewares department also performing strongly, with a 7.8% hike.
House of Fraser - which was taken over by China's Sanpower in a £480m deal last September - added it has made further progress on its expansion plans for China, having first announced in April aims to open three stores in the country.
It is set to launch the first store in 2016.
Nigel Oddy, chief executive House of Fraser, said: "We are pleased with the continued sales and profit growth in the first half of this year."
He added: "We continue to make progress on our international expansion plans and remain excited by our future growth opportunities both in the UK and abroad."