Australian clothing retailer Country Road today (17 January) said it expects first-half post-tax profits to rise after recording an increase in sales for the period.

The retailer, which is owned by South African conglomerate Woolworths, saw sales for the six months to 31 December rise 5.1% to AUD220.1m (US$229m), driven by a 21.2% rise in concession sales, which reached AUD66.8m.

However, sales in its retail stores were down 0.3% to AUD153.1m, with like-for-like sales down 4.2%.

The company is forecasting profit after tax to rise between 10-12% on the same period of the previous year.

Chief executive Howard Goldberg said retail trading conditions have remained difficult as "consumers have been cautious with regard to discretionary spend". However, the retailer has reduced its levels of discounting and improved its margins.

"Our online store continues to grow and we have opened limited new stores. We have been focused on expense reduction initiaves throughout the first half and our South African business continues to trade well," said Goldberg.

"The retail outlook for the next six months remains challenging. Our expectations on sales remain conservative and we will continue to drive a more efficient business, improving shareholder returns."