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Content on track to hit £1bn sales mark this year

LONDON - Sales at have risen by almost 30% for the first half this year and is set to hit £1bn in sales for 2006.

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In its interim results, Tesco said that sales at its website were up by 28.7% to £544m, with profit up by 43.1% to £33.8m. Over the period it made an average of 220,000 deliveries a week and has 750,000 customers.

The test store in Croydon, which exists solely to fulfil online grocery orders, had also proved successful.

"While only a few locations are likely to be appropriate for this, it has been very successful, providing busy stores with more capacity to grow and freeing up a lot more convenient delivery slots for customers," Tesco said.

It also said that the launch of Tesco Direct, its online and catalogue retailing division, had been successful.

Although Tesco Direct, which sells a range of goods including furniture, bicycles, televisions and toys, only launched in September, there had been more than 1m hits on the website in the first three weeks of operation.

Tesco is rivalling shops like Argos and Ikea by offering home delivery in two-hour slots, instead of half-day ones, and also the option to collect directly from stores. It offers 8,000 products online and 1,500 by catalogue.

Overall, Tesco reported profits of £1.1bn for the first half of the year, as its strategy of shifting focus away from food sales and branching out into other areas paid off.

Earlier this week, Tesco revealed it was taking on Microsoft with the launch of a range of cut-price software. Its version of office software will retail for under £20, while the Microsoft Office basic package starts at £199.00.

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