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Countdown sales rise in first quarter


Countdown sales rise in first quarter, boosted by dearer dairy, produce

By Sophie Boot

Oct. 31 (BusinessDesk) - Countdown supermarket sales rose 3.2 percent in the first quarter of the 2018 financial year, boosted by more expensive dairy products and fresh produce.

New Zealand food sales increased to $1.63 billion in the 14 weeks to Oct. 1 from $1.58 billion in the same quarter a year earlier, Woolworths said in an update to the Australian stock exchange. In Australian dollars, sales gained 0.4 percent to A$1.5 billion, with the smaller gain down to a weaker kiwi dollar against its Australian counterpart.

Comparable sales rose 2.7 percent in the first quarter as "customers responded positively to our investment in service despite a number of competitor promotions during the period", Sydney-based Woolworths said.

Countdown's food price index rose 1.6 percent in the quarter, "driven by a combination of continued New Zealand dairy price inflation and higher levels of inflation in fresh produce impacted by growing conditions and supply", Woolworths said. Government figures show grocery food prices rose 1.4 percent in the three months ended Sept. 30, outpacing a 0.7 percent increase in the broader food prices index.

Woolworths said 52 of its stores now have product ranges tailored for customer demographics. There are now 184 Countdown stores in New Zealand, with the company opening one and closing one in the quarter, while the number of franchise stores rose by one to 66.

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The ASX-listed parent reported a 3.7 percent gain in total first-quarter sales to A$15.7 billion, which includes its income from its Australian supermarkets, petrol sales, the Big W chain and hotels. Excluding its discontinued petrol operations, first-quarter sales rose 3.7 percent to A$14.5 billion.

Chief executive Brad Banducci said the company is focused on the important Christmas trading period ahead.

The ASX-listed shares last traded at A$25.30, and have gained 5 percent this year.

(BusinessDesk)

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