Shoppers examine merchandise on display inside the Truworths stalls at the Sarit centre shopping mall in Kenya's capital Nairobi, July 21, 2009. REUTERS

South Africa's third-biggest listed clothes retailer, Mr Price, reported a 22 percent rise in first-half profit as above-inflation wage increases and decades-low interest rates lift consumer spending in Africa's biggest economy.

Mr Price, whose nearly 1,000 no-frills stores cater mainly to lower-income shoppers, said headline earnings per share totalled 187.3 cents in the 26 weeks to end-September, compared with 153.3 cents a year earlier.

Retailers have been squeezed in recent years as consumers battle high personal debt and unemployment, but low borrowing costs and higher-than-inflation wage increases have helped them mount a recovery.

Mr Price, which competes with larger rivals Truworths and The Foschini Group, said sales increased 11 percent to 5.3 billion rand.

The company, which raised its dividend payout by 22 percent to 93.6 cents, said sales growth would be supported by new store openings, including its first Nigerian outlet in March next year.

Shares in Mr Price, valued at $2.5 billion, were down 0.9 percent at 80.25 rand by 1230 GMT, in line with its rivals Foschini and Truworths.

Earlier this month Foschini reported a 26 percent rise in first-half profit, helped by the same factors.