Japanese retailer Aeon has posted a return to profit for its fiscal year to 20 February helped by strong clothing sales.

The supermarket operator posted a record net profit of ¥51.26bn (US$424.4m), compared to a net loss of ¥16.1bn a year earlier. Consolidated revenues rose 5.2% to ¥3.09trn, which is the first time the company has topped ¥3trn.

Aeon, which operates more than 900 stores in Japan and China, forecasted another record year in 2003/04 and said it planned to open 76 new stores this year.

“We are just now reaping the rewards from our restructuring efforts before the year 2000,” Aeon President Motoya Okada was reported by Reuters as saying. “Now the big question is what do we do next.”

On an operating basis, Aeon’s consolidated profit rose 10.9% from a year earlier to ¥132.17bn, boosted by a rise in gross profit margin.

For the current business year, Aeon has forecast a group net profit of ¥51.5bn on revenues of ¥3.3trn.