Hallenstein Glasson Holdings said first-half profit rose about 34 per cent after the retailer said it enjoyed a stronger Christmas trading season.

Group sales rose 9.4 per cent to $122.9 million in the six months to February 1, with an 11 per cent gain over the critical December period. The clothing retailer said net profit for the six months ended February 1 was between $9m and $9.2m, up from $6.8m a year earlier. Gross margin in the first half widened about 1.4 percentage points reflecting a more favourable exchange rate and better cost prices achieved through negotiation, the Auckland-based retailer said in a statement to the NZX.

Hallenstein said its balance sheet was strong and stock levels were well controlled. Its detailed first-half results and dividend will be released on March 30.

The retailer had a tough 2016 with annual profit down 21 per cent to $13.7m, after a decline in the kiwi dollar made imports more expensive, squeezing its margins. Its rudderless women's clothing chain Glassons struggled amidst rising competition, especially in Australia, and a warm autumn and mild winter led to a drop in sales. At its annual meeting in December, chairman Warren Bell told shareholders the appointment of Di Humphries to head Glassons has helped turn it around, and that unfavourable forward foreign exchange cover had largely been consumed so margins should improve.

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In late 2016, the company replaced long-serving chief executive Graeme Popplewell with Mark Goddard, who has 27 years of international retail experience, most recently as president and managing director of Toys 'R Us Japan. He's also held senior roles at Myer Australia, Spotlight Group Australia, and Country Road Australia.

The shares rose 3.6 per cent to $3.42, having plunged as low as $2.59 in 2016 after that year's first-half profit dropped 21 per cent.