Retail giant Coles sold almost $7 billion worth of goods in the September quarter and its parent company says all signs are pointing to a strong Christmas sales period.
According to figures released by the supermarket chain’s owner, Wesfarmers, Coles recorded a 4.4 per cent increase in sales during the three month period, compared to the same time last year.
Wesfarmers boss Richard Goyder said the figures were pleasing, given the average price of a basket of goods fell 2.5 per cent during the quarter, mostly due to lower fresh food prices.
Mr Goyder is confident things are improving in the retail sector, which has faced a difficult couple of years due to weak consumer sentiment.
He said the recent rise in house prices, a relatively low unemployment rate and low interest rates should boost consumer confidence and encourage them to spend more over Christmas compared to previous years.
“I think the environment is just better now… When people are feeling financially better off that tends to reflect in spending habits,” he said.
“The ingredients are there for an uptick in retail spending and I think Christmas will be a good indication of that, because that’s when people tend to be a bit more impulsive,” he said.
Wesfarmers also said the roll-out of self check outs, which are now in place at more than 600 of Coles’ 756 supermarkets, had been a hit with customers and now accounted for more than 50 per cent of transactions in some stores.
“Its not uncommon to see stores with half of the transactions going through a self check-out, so in other words customers really like them,” the company’s finance director Terry Bowen said.
Mr Goyder said Coles would roll out more self check-outs, even though they had led to a slight increase in thefts from the supermarket chain.
“The vast majority of customers are very honest, we’ve opened our stores up and we’ll have more self-check-outs…but we’ll put in place some processes that keep a handle on shrink(theft),” he said.
The September quarter was a good one for Wesfarmers retail businesses, with sales from the company’s home improvement business Bunnings up more than 10 per cent during the quarter to $2 billion.
Officeworks recorded a three per cent rise in sales to $373 million while Kmart lifted its sales 4.6 per cent to $970 million.
But Target continued to struggle, with sales down 6.1 per cent from last year to $789 million.