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Countdown March-qtr sales growth underpinned by produce, perishables

Thursday 2nd May 2019

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The Woolworths-owned Countdown supermarket chain lifted sales 3.2 percent in the March quarter, which the retailer put down to growth in fruit, vegetables and perishables. 

Sales across the 180 Countdown stores were $1.69 billion in the 13 weeks ended March 31, up from $1.64 billion a year earlier. Adjusting for Easter, when consumers typically line the aisles to stock up for the two days when supermarkets have to close their doors, the Australian company said sales were up 2.9 percent. 

Countdown's sales growth lagged behind the 4 percent increase in electronic card spending on consumables in the March quarter, while the supermarket's 0.6 percent decline in average prices compared to a 0.7 percent increase in grocery food prices, according to government data. 

Cheaper fruit and vegetables and lower grocery prices led to the wider contraction in Countdown's prices, offset in part by more expensive meat. Excluding tobacco, which was hit with its annual 10 percent tax hike, average prices shrank 0.9 percent. 

Countdown launched a new programme to source more produce from local growers, and said it now gets 85 percent of fruit and veg directly from farmers.

The supermarket said total sales were affected by store closures in the prior periods, and that the quarterly increase was underpinned by strong sales of produce and perishable goods. 

Woolworths has been investing in Countdown's digital capabilities, with online sales up 43 percent in the quarter and taking its digital penetration to 6.6 percent. 

The Australian company's group sales were up 4.2 percent at A$15 billion, of which its flagship Woolworths supermarkets lifted sales 4.1 percent to A$10.02 billion. 

(BusinessDesk)

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