THE owner of high street fashion chain Zara has notched up a 10 per cent hike in first-quarter profits after record sales thanks to a further global push online.

Inditex, the world's largest clothing retailer, posted net profits of €734 million (£653m) for the three months to April 30 after net sales lifted 5% to an all-time high of €5.93bn (£

The group, which also owns brands including Massimo Dutti and Pull & Bear, said poor weather in the second half of the quarter hit sales but added trading quickly recovered.

It also confirmed a boost for the group's 92,000 employees, who shared out a $32m (£28.5m) pot in April as part of its previously announced profit-sharing plan.

Chairman and chief executive Pablo Isla said the first-quarter performance underscored the "strong momentum in the digital transformation of the integrated store and online sales platform and in sustainability as a key pillar of the company's strategy".

Discount supermarket Lidl has announced plans to open 40 new stores in London as part of a £500 million expansion plan, creating around 1,500 jobs.

The major investment will take place in the capital over the next five years, and include the creation of its first central London store on Tottenham Court Road.

The investment plan also includes Lidl's previously announced new head office in Tolworth, south-west London, and the expansion of its Belvedere distribution centre.

New stores will be opened across the capital as part of the expansion strategy, including new outlets in Alperton, East Acton, Hackbridge and Watford.

Lidl said the move will create around 1,500 jobs in the long term.

Its new store planned for Tottenham Court Road, will be its most central store in London and have a 1,300 meters squared area, stocking its full range of products including its popular middle aisle items.

A new distribution centre is also planned to open near to Luton, and will be the company's fourth site to service Greater London.

Cigarette-maker British American Tobacco (BAT) is cashing in on the increasing popularity of vaping and heated tobacco products.

Bosses at the company behind Benson & Hedges, Lucky Strike and Dunhill said sales from its e-cigarette division will rise between 30 per cent and 50% this year, although they added that traditional cigarettes are still an important part of the business.

But despite the positive noises, BAT shares fell nearly 5% to 2,918p in morning trading.

Chief executive Jack Bowles, who took the top job earlier this year, said: "We are creating a stronger, simpler business and driving a step change in new categories, built on the foundation of a strong combustible business."

He added that traditional cigarette sales are performing well in a declining market, thanks to "good pricing", which will help total sales for BAT rise between 3% and 5%.

But the primary focus for the business is on its vaping and heated tobacco products, which bosses hope will generate £5 billion in sales by 2023.

The company said its Vype vape has performed strongly in the UK and France, with a 6.8% and 12.1% market share respectively.

Its EPOK and LYFT edible nicotine products are also growing in popularity in Scandinavia and Switzerland, with Velo being rolled out in the US later this year.

BAT is playing catch-up with its peers, who moved into the tobacco-free market much quicker.