PARIS – Inditex, the retailer that owns Zara, on Monday said store openings drove profits up 25 percent last year and that sales have remained robust so far in 2008.

The Spanish firm said profits in the 12 months through Jan. 31 reached 1.25 billion euros, or $1.73 billion, ahead of analysts’ estimates.

This story first appeared in the March 31, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Sales in the period grew 15 percent to 9.44 billion euros, or $13.07 billion, as Inditex aggressively opened stores in fast-growing markets from Russia to China.

Inditex said sales from Feb. 1 to March 23 increased 17 percent in local currencies, suggesting health among key fast-fashion players in a difficult market.

Last week, rival chain Hennes & Mauritz of Sweden said its first-quarter profits gained 28 percent.

Inditex said it would continue to aggressively roll out stores, with 942 million euros, or $1.49 billion, earmarked for international expansion over the next 12 months.

Inditex opened 560 stores last year. As many as 640 stores are expected to bow this year, the retailer said.

For further coverage, see Tuesday’s issue of WWD.