IN A significant milestone, retail giant Woolworths notched up internet sales totalling $1 billion in 2013, the company announced as part of its half-year financial reporting this morning.
For the six months ended 5 January, Woolworths’ supermarket, petrol, hotels and home improvement divisions notched up sales of $31.8 billion, a 6pc increase on the same period a year earlier.
The company reported a ‘solid’ result for the most recent quarter, particularly in the Australian supermarket division.
Woolworths is easily the largest beef retailer in Australia, controlling almost one third of national retail beef sales, well ahead of Coles on 24pc.
Chief executive Grant O’Brien said the improvement in the growth rates for Woolworths Food and Liquor business demonstrated the transformation that was underway in the company’s operations.
A strong Christmas period helped push Australian supermarket sales to $21.4 billion for the half-year, up about $1 billion, or 4.8pc on a year earlier. Some of that was due to new store openings, however, with comparable store sales growth up 3pc.
There were also increases in market share, customer numbers, basket size and items sold. The company served an average of 21 million customers per week during the first half, an increase of 3.9pc on the previous year.
“Customers enjoyed the benefits of our market leading positions in price and range. We delivered savings of more than $400 million to customers predominantly through our ‘More Savings Every Day’ program,” Mr O’Brien said.
Customers continued to benefit from lower average prices, as reflected by deflation of 4.1pc for the half, compared with prices this time last year.
“The competitive market and value-conscious shoppers are ensuring that we must continue to work hard to deliver the value that our customers seek,” he said.
Woolworths opened 26 new Australian supermarkets during the half-year, bringing its total to 920.
The company has added close to 100 new supermarket stores to its portfolio since 2010.
Big growth in online sales
Online sales exceeded $1 billion for the first time for calendar 2013, well ahead of company targets, as “customers take advantage of increased flexibility in the ways they can shop,” Mr O’Brien said.
Online sales from continuing operations increased more than 40pc for the half-year and featured strong growth within the supermarket division and liquor business.
Woolworths also continues to grow its hotel division, now numbering 327 establishments across Australia. About half operate steak-oriented restaurants featuring beef source from Woolworths “Graziers” brand program. Hotel sales for the half-year increased 3.8pc.