Cold weather in recession-weary Europe left spring collections on the racks of the world's biggest clothing retailers, Inditex and H&M.

But small British rival ASOS beat the seasons with soaring demand for its cost-conscious online offering.

Spain's Inditex, which owns the Zara chain, posted its weakest quarterly growth in net profit in four years, and an unusually cold spring and early summer did little for sales of summer clothes going into the second quarter.

The group, whose brands include teen label Bershka and upmarket player Massimo Dutti, posted a 2% rise in first-quarter net profit on sales up 5.2%.

Global leader Inditex has outpaced rivals in recent years, but investors were poised for signs that sales growth is slowing after aggressive expansion into markets like China and Russia to sharply reduce exposure to its struggling home market Spain, where unemployment, especially among the young, has hit retailers.

With 80% of sales from Europe, Sweden's H&M, due to publish full quarterly results on June 19, has been hit harder by the region's economic downturn than Inditex.

The group posted unchanged May same-store and fiscal second quarter net sales today, just missing analysts' expectations. H&M has seen margins fall due to currency swings and long-term investments.

ASOS, however, posted a 45% rise in its third-quarter sales, with robust growth in Britain, tapping into demand from value-seeking 20-somethings for both branded and own-label products.

The online retailer is expanding into Russia and China and recently signed a deal with budget fashion chain Primark to sell its cheap womenswear on its website.