Zara fast-fashion chain owner Inditex posted a record third-quarter profit as in-store sales rose above pre-pandemic levels, the Spanish retail giant said on Wednesday.

Net profit in the three months to the end of October hit an "all-time record" of 1.23 billion euros ($1.39 billion), a 42 percent jump over a year earlier, the company said.

Inditex's bottom line had been decimated by lockdown measures at the height of the Covid crisis last year, but as economies reopened the shoppers have flocked back to stores.

In-store sales in constant currency terms were up 21 percent from the same period last year, and 10 percent higher than in 2019, before the pandemic hit the global economy, the company said.

"These results are very satisfactory and demonstrate once again the solidity of our business model," Inditex Chairman Pablo Isla said in a statement.

The recovery in sales sets the scene for Marta Ortega, a daughter of the company's founder, to take over as chair in April, replacing Isla, who has occupied the post since 2011.

Shoppers flocked back to the high streets as Covid lockdown measures eased
Shoppers flocked back to the high streets as Covid lockdown measures eased AFP / GREG BAKER

Rival H&M also on Wednesday reported rebounding sales as shoppers returned to the high streets, though the 8 percent gain in its fourth quarter ended November 30 remained below pre-pandemic levels.

The Swedish giant's sales were 56.8 billion krona (5.5 billion euro), compared with 61.7 billion in the same period of 2019, it said.

Inditex's sales during the first nine months hit 19.33 billion euros, 37 percent higher than a year earlier, but still below the 19.8 billion euros reported in 2019 before the pandemic.

The company, which operates nearly 7,000 stores worldwide, posted a net profit of 2.5 billion euros during the first nine months of its 2021 fiscal year, which starts on February 1.

That is up 273 percent from the same time last year, but still below the 2.7 billion euros reported in the same period in 2019.

The fashion group owns seven other brands in addition to Zara, including upmarket Massimo Dutti and teen label Stradivarius.