SYDNEY, AAP – Premier Investments, the company behind stores including Just Jeans, Portmans and Smiggle, has raised its first-half earnings expectation to up to 85 per cent better than the 2020 first-half.

Premier on Wednesday said first-half 2021 earnings before tax were expected to be 75 to 85 per cent better than the 2020 equivalent, which would produce earnings of between $221 million and $233 million.

Online sales were a big factor. These were up 60 per cent on the same period last year to $146.2 million.

Global sales were up five per cent to $716.9 million, and there were outstanding sales at Jay Jays, Just Jeans and Peter Alexander across Australia and New Zealand.

All figures were based on 24 weeks of the company’s first-half, which concludes on January 30.

The better earnings forecast comes despite Premier having had to temporarily close stores in Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Ireland and Malaysia due to the coronavirus.

Premier Investments chairman Solomon Lew said staff were incredible for their work during the pandemic.

“The challenges posed by COVID-19 are the greatest set of risks I have ever seen in more than six decades in retail,” he said.

“During the first half we have had rolling lockdowns and shutdowns in multiple countries all at a moment’s notice.”

The first-half earnings are expected in late March.

Shares were higher by 15.56 per cent to $25.99 at 1120 AEDT. Their record price is $26.70.