HOUSE of Fraser yesterday said its customers have put summer behind them and are stocking up their winter wardrobes as the department store group posted a “strong start” to the second half of the year. The group, part-owned by Scottish tycoon Sir Tom Hunter, posted a 4.6 per cent rise in like-for-like sales in the eight weeks to 22 September, driven by strong demand for house brands like Linea, Biba (pictured) and Howick. “It continues to be difficult to predict when economic conditions will improve. However, we are encouraged by the strong start to the second half” the group said. Same store sales for the first half climbed 1.7 per cent on earnings of £12.5m – up fractionally on last year. Meanwhile online sales soared by 60 per cent in the period.