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Woolworths Master the hardware game

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Woolworths Ltd has reported a six per cent increases in sales for the first half of the financial year.

Healthy growth was seen in its food and liquor sales (4.8 per cent), petrol (8.0) per cent and home improvement (25 per cent).

The home improvement figure was driven mainly by a 49 per cent increases in sales at its new Masters stores, a “business still in development” which opened seven new outlets in the last six months.

Masters is being rolled out in competition with the Wesfarmer’s owned Bunnings.

It is yet to open up stores in Adelaide, although several sites have been earmarked for development.

Woolies supermarket division posted $27.81 billion of sales from continuing operations in the half, a 6.2 per cent increase on the $26.19 billion in the prior corresponding period.

That included $21.48 billion of sales from its Australian food and liquor division.

Chief executive officer Grant O’Brien said successful Christmas trading helped deliver sales growth in the Australian food and liquor division as well as increases in market share, customer numbers, basket size and items sold.

“Despite the competitive market, the underlying strength of our business has allowed us to continue to expand our store network,” he said, adding the group created over 3,900 new jobs during the half.

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,” 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.”

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