UPDATE 1-N Brown posts higher profit, online push pays off

(Adds details on revenue, UK focus, CEO comment)

Oct 10 (Reuters) - Plus-sized fashion retailer N Brown reported higher first-half adjusted pretax profit on Thursday, as it reaps the benefits from transitioning to an online-only business after closing all its stores last year.

The owner of JD Williams, Simply Be, Ambrose Wilson and Jacamo shut 20 shops to focus on online sales in a move back to its roots. After launching in 1859, it used the development of the postal system in Britain to sell goods directly to customers.

The company, which targets women over 30 and specializes in larger sizes, said adjusted pretax profit rose 3.9% to 31.8 million pounds ($38.87 million) for the six months ended Aug. 31.

Brick-and-mortar retailers have suffered from online competition and rising costs. N Brown said it has relaunched its social media plans with good initial results and will focus on the UK after having shut its international division and exited marketing directly to the U.S.

“The retail environment remains heavily promotional,” Chief Executive Officer Steve Johnson said.

But the company maintained its full-year expectations.

N Brown, which also owns a financial services arm, said last month it would set aside another 20 million to 30 million pounds in provisions for the mis-selling of payment protection insurance as it saw 10 times the average volumes of claims in August.

On Wednesday, the company said that at the end of August, an extra charge of 25 million pounds had been recognised to reflect the latest assessment of the PPI liabilities, which is expected to be taken in the current year.

Group revenue fell 5.4% to 432.9 million pounds, hurt by a decline in product revenue from managing the continued decline of its legacy offline business, the shift away from the U.S. and the closing of stores.

$1 = 0.8181 pounds Reporting by Tanishaa Nadkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr