The world's biggest clothing retailer Inditex has today reported a better than expected 6% rise in first-quarter net profit, driven by strong sales as it continues its expansion online. 

The owner of fashion chain Zara has recently lowered space-growth guidance to shift its focus to larger flagship stores and online sales.

It said the opening of new stores and internet sites so far this year was in line with its targets. 

Inditex's full stable of brands, from homewares store Zara Home to upmarket clothing label Massimo Dutti, would have an online presence in all European countries and Turkey this year, the company said. 

It said its net profit came to €554m, above a Reuters polled forecast of €541m. Sales were up 12% on the same time last year. 

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) for the period from February 1 to April 30 rose 7% to €955m, also ahead of a polled forecast of €937m.

Sales of items like lace-trimmed dresses and over-sized shirts from flagship brand Zara helped push sales across Inditex's brands up 15% at constant exchange rates in the first weeks of the second quarter from May 1 to June 13. 

Inditex's financial year runs from the beginning of February to the end of January. 

Inditex is famous for whisking the latest looks straight from the runway to stores in a matter of days thanks to a highly-automated production process that keeps manufacturing bases close to its distribution centre in northern Spain.

The fast turnover allows brands like Zara to react to trends immediately, reducing instore markdowns and increasing profitability.