South African retailer Woolworths Holdings has posted an increase in group sales, boosted by sales at its food division.

Group sales increased by 8.1% for the 20 weeks ended 15 November, with a growth of 3.8% in comparable store sales.

Price movement in the company's foods business showed a steady decline to a current
rate of 6.7%.

Sales in the group's food division were up 8.9% for the period and comparable store sales for the division increased 4.4%.

"Economic conditions remain tough and are expected to remain as such for the
remaining of the 2010 financial year," the company said. "There does appear to be some improvement in confidence in the higher income customer. We will continue to focus on managing costs and controlling stock during the period."

A comparison of the results for the six months ending December 2009 to the
corresponding reporting period of last year are expected be affected by the profit of
ZAR380m (US$50.7m) earned on the disposal of a 50% plus one share of Woolworths financial services to ABSA Group Limited on 1 October 2008.

Consequently, earnings per share will be more than 20% lower than last year, Woolworths said.

The group's interim results for the six months ending 31 December are expected to be announced on or about 18 February 2010.