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Zara clothes to start online sales in Europe

Madrid – Spain’s Inditex, Europe’s largest clothing retailer, said Wednesday it would start selling its flagship Zara brand clothes over the internet later this year in selected European markets.

"Zara will start online sales for the autumn/winter 2010 season. Initially the online sales will be launched in Spain, France, Germany, UK, Italy and Portugal, to be followed by the progressive rollout in all Zara markets," it said in a statement.

Inditex chief executive Pablo Isla called the move "an important strategic step" which was in line with the company’s "constant daily search to offer the best service to clients worldwide."

The company experimented recently with internet sales with its Zara home products.

Sweden’s H&M, Europe’s second-largest clothing retailer, already sells its products online in Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands while the Gap Inc., the largest US group, does the same in its home market.

Inditex’s move comes at a time of declining retail sales in Spain, which accounts for about one-third of the company’s sales, amid a rapid rise in unemployment.

The retailer, whose other brands include Massimo Dutti and Bershka, posted Wednesday a first-half net profit of EUR 375 million, an 8.0 percent decline over the same period last year.

Sales rose 7.0 percent to EUR 4.86 billion in the six months.

Inditex opened 166 outlets during the first half, taking the total to 4,430 in 73 countries, saying it maintained "rapid growth" in Asia where it is expanding in the fast-growing Chinese and Indian markets.

China is now home to more than 50 stores.

"Thus, the growth of the Asian region remains one of the key priorities at the core of Inditex’s expansion strategy," the company said in a statement.

Shares in Index closed up 5.05 percent at EUR 40.58, outperforming gains of 1.32 percent of the Ibex-35 index of most traded Spanish shares.

AFP / Expatica