Shoprite Holdings has booked an increase in half-year sales and profits despite what South Africa-based grocer described as “difficult” domestic trading conditions.

The retailer said sales were up 9.7% on the year, climbing to ZAR51.09bn (US$4.76bn).

CEO Whitey Basson said Shoprite’s businesses in other African markets drove sales. “Our turnover was supported by the strong growth we achieved elsewhere in Africa,” Basson said.

Shoprite said it invested in new store openings at a faster rate than its competitors.

As a result of the group’s increased investment levels, margins were slightly down – dipping to 5.3% from 5.4%.

However, profitability was boosted in part by currency exchange – which added ZAR4.3m compared to a loss of ZAR41.4m last year. Trading profit increased 7.5%, climbing to ZAR2.69bn. Net profit rose 7.1% to ZAR1.82bn.

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Headline earnings per share, a closely-watched metric in South Africa, rose 7.9% to 341.0 cents.