Discount clothing retailer Matalan, which has 203 outlets, will open three new stores in the UK this year.

Matalan said it was working on an accelerated store programme for 2010. It came as the company said pre-tax profits for the year to 28 February were up 6.3% to £145.1m, and forecast a year of challenging trading conditions.

But the chain, which was taken private in 2006, said that in the first 14 weeks of the new financial year, like-for-like sales improved by 8.2%. The group said shoppers had been responding to an ongoing store refurbishment programme, which had seen 120 outlets upgraded.

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Matalan also said net debt was £247.4m ($404.8m), down from £275.3m last year.

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