Woolworths lifted its first half sales more than six per cent thanks to solid gains from its supermarkets division.
The retail giant sold $31.8 billion worth of goods across its divisions during the six months to December 31, which is up from just over $30 billion a year ago.
Sales from the company’s Australian food and liquor division rose nearly five per cent to $21.5 billion thanks to new store openings, increased customer numbers and a larger average basket size.
Chief executive Grant O’Brien said Woolworths’ supermarkets had performed well over the Christmas period.
“Successful Christmas trading in Australian Food and Liquor helped to deliver sales growth of 4.8 per cent for the half year as well as increases in market share, customer numbers, basket size and items sold,” he said.
Meanwhile, sales from the petrol division rose eight per cent to $3.7 billion during the half due to higher fuel prices, though sales volumes declined during the second quarter.
But sales from BIG W rose only 0.2 per cent during the half to $2.45 billion and were down more than two per cent on a like for like basis.
Woolworths attributed the result to the timing of its annual toy sales and its efforts to “reposition” the department store business.
“We are focused on transforming BIG W for the future,” Mr O’Brien said.
“We are aligning our focus to categories that are core to our customers to ensure this business is well placed to drive profitable growth in the future. We anticipate this will continue to impact short term sales.”
Meanwhile, sales from the company’s home improvement division jumped 25 per cent to $796 million during the half year due primarily to the opening of seven new Masters stores over the six month period.
Woolworths plans to open 18 Masters stores during the 2013/14 financial year as it works to position itself as a major player in the home improvement retail sector.
Sales from the company’s hotels business rose nearly four per cent to $788 million.