Woolworths sales grow despite tough environment

Woolworths’ sales grew by almost 5% in the 20 weeks through November 2023 despite the country’s tough operating environment.

The retailer released a trading update for the 20 weeks ended 12 November 2023 today.

The company’s turnover and concession sales from continuing operations – excluding David Jones, which was disposed of in the prior period – increased by 4.7%, or 3.9% in constant currency terms. 

“This is notwithstanding an increasingly challenging macro-economic backdrop, given the sustained effect of interest rate increases and higher living costs, which are negatively impacting footfall and discretionary spend in both geographies,” the company said. 

“In South Africa, our business operations were further disrupted by a number of external factors, including the Western Cape taxi strike, congestion at the ports, and the impact of Avian flu on the availability of key product lines.”

However, Woolworths reported a 22.4% drop in sales, including the contribution of David Jones in the prior period.

“Notwithstanding the challenging macro context, our teams remain focused on profitably trading our businesses, supported by robust trade plans as we approach the key festive season,” the retailer said. 

“We are confident in our strategies and continue to invest in our existing businesses as well as new growth opportunities enabled by our strong balance sheet.”

Woolworths’ food business saw turnover and concession sales grow by 8.4% or 7.2% on a comparable store basis. 

This is notwithstanding the impact of Avian flu, which reduced the availability of eggs and poultry. 

Woolworths’ underlying product inflation averaged 9.4%, lower than headline food inflation. 

The retailer’s fashion, beauty and home business saw a decline in sales performance due to the late arrival of certain summer ranges, arising from congestion at the country’s ports. 

Turnover and concession sales grew by 1.4%, with comparable store sales in line with last year.