British cards and gift retailer Clinton Cards posted a rise in Christmas sales, highlighting the impact of a change in strategy implemented by a former Starbucks executive who became its CEO in October.

Darcy Wilson-Rymer, who joined Clinton Cards after four years at the UK unit of the U.S. coffee shop chain, is carrying out a strategic review with an initial focus on improving the range of products and customer service.

Shares in the retailer, battling tough trading conditions as well as intense competition from supermarkets and the Internet, rose nearly 7 percent on Thursday after it said sales at stores open over a year rose 0.4 percent year-on-year in the five weeks to January 1.

That compares with a fall of 2.4 percent in the 16 weeks to November 20, reported November 28, and meant cumulative like-for-like sales for the 22 weeks to January 1 were down 1.4 percent.

The firm trades from 630 Clinton Cards stores and 141 Birthdays outlets.

Since I joined Clintons, we have had a single-minded focus on the customer. Our Christmas trading update recognises the positive impact of this approach, said Wilson-Rymer.

Despite a tough retail climate, we remain in line with the board's expectations.

Shares in Clinton Cards, which prior to Thursday's update had lost over half their value over the last year, were up 0.75 pence at 11.6 pence at 0826 GMT, valuing the business at about 24 million pounds.

(Reporting by James Davey; editing by Paul Sandle)