THE owner of Zara has said sales surged during the first half of the year as the high street fashion brand was bolstered by warm weather and the success of a highly popular polka-dot dress.

Indetix, the world's largest clothes retailer, said sales jumped 7% to €12.8 billion (£11.5bn) in the six months to July as it shrugged off the tough retail market conditions.

The Spanish group said like-for-like sales during the period increased by 5%, while earnings before interest and tax rose by 8% to €3.4bn (£3.04bn).

The company, which had 7,420 stores across the world at the end of July, said it benefited from the roll-out of Zara online to new locations such as Brazil and the UAE.

The group, which includes other brands such as Pull & Bear, has shut smaller stores to focus on large spaces in prime shopping areas and rapidly growing online sales.

Crest Nicholson has named Iain Ferguson as its new chairman to replace Stephen Stone when he steps down next month amid a clean sweep at the top of the housebuilding giant.

Mr Ferguson joins as non-executive chairman-designate on September 16 and will take over from Mr Stone on November 1.

Mr Stone - who was formerly chief executive and then executive chairman - stands down on October 31.

Mr Stone's departure comes after its new chief executive started this week, with former Galliford Try boss Peter Truscott joining on Monday as Crest pursues a fresh strategy.

Mr Truscott replaced longstanding chief executive Patrick Bergin, who stepped down abruptly in March after 13 years at the company.

The change comes as Crest shifts from growth to cash generation, focusing on partnerships and other joint ventures.

Outsourcing giant Serco has been given a two-year extension to its contract with the Australian government to monitor and run detention facilities in the country.

The agreement means the British firm will have worked with the country's government for 12 years when the new contract ends in December 2021, and could be extended by a further two years to 2023.

Full details of the contract were not revealed, with bosses saying final points were still being discussed.

The company said: "Serco provide services to the onshore immigration detention network in Australian states and territories, including Christmas Island.

"These include accommodation, transport and escort, access control, induction, welfare, education programmes and activities, catering, incident management, and property and facilities management."