Sales at Hallenstein Glasson are tracking above last year after four months of trading and margins have improved, though the Christmas sales period remains critical, says chairman Warren Bell.

The Auckland-based retailer's sales are up 2 per cent in the four months ending December 1 from the same period a year earlier, and margins are wider indicating better profitability from 2013, Bell told shareholders at yesterday's annual meeting in Auckland. Still, the Christmas period remains important to the first half, and shareholders will be updated in January.

"The next few weeks to Christmas are critical to our success for the balance of the summer season, but we are confident the business is in a stronger position than it was at a comparable stage last year," Bell said.

Hallenstein, which operates the Hallensteins, Glassons and Storm clothing chains in New Zealand and Australia, was hit by a poor Christmas trading period last year, which resulted in a 40 per cent slump in first-half profit, something it struggled to make up in the second six months of the year.


It has since taken steps to address poor planning and buying in its Hallenstein and Storm chains, but Glassons New Zealand is still a "work in progress" which has been hampered by executive changes, Bell said.

Chief executive Graeme Popplewell said the lack of a Glassons head has been a significant disruption for the business, and the company is considering some "very credible candidates" with a view to fill the role next year.

The company's shares closed up 5c yesterday at $3.15. The stock is rated an average "buy" based on five analyst recommendations compiled by Reuters, with a median target price of $3.45.