Woolworths’ sales rose 11.1% to R14.2bn (£1.22bn) in its first half to the end of December 2011. Food sales increased by 11.7%while clothing and general merchandise was up 10.1%. Operating profit rose 27.8% to R1.4bn (£120.7m). While strong sales growth was recorded in the second quarter, Woolworths attributed part of its growth to improved gross margins and favourable currency exchange rates. The retailer said that trading for the first six weeks of its second half had been positive.