SYDNEY, AAP – Retailer Myer has posted a massive lift in interim profit after a surge in online sales during the COVID-19 pandemic helped offset a fall in foot traffic.

Net profit for the first half of 2020/21 was $43 million, up 76.3 per cent, compared to the previous corresponding period.

Once restructuring costs, floor closures and brand exits are taken into account, the department store operator’s profit was still up by a healthy 8.4 per cent.

During the half-year, online sales rose 71 per cent to $287 million compared to a 13.1 per cent fall in total group sales of $1.4 billion.

Online sales now represented 21 per cent of Myer’s total sales, CEO John King said on Thursday.

“The strengthened balance sheet provides a solid platform for investing in our digital growth engine, which represents a significant opportunity,” he added.

While the impact of COVID-19 on the retailer’s business was undeniable, Mr King said Myer was able to retain staff after getting $51 million from the federal government’s pandemic-driven JobKeeper wage subsidy program.

The money was paid out to workers in August and September.