Woolies stays dry during summer

DVDs and sweets rescued Woolies sales during the washed out June and July.
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DVDs and sweets rescued Woolies sales during the washed out June and July.

Like-for-like sales rose 3.7 percent in the eight weeks to July 28th. Its shares gained as much as 8.7 percent to trade at 25 pence, recouping some of the 10 per cent of losses over the previous three days.

"Because of the weather, we've seen a positive uptick on confectionery and entertainment and a downtick on items like outdoor toys and garden products," chief executive Trevor Bish-Jones told reporters.

The firm has avoided overstocks of outdoor products after cancelling early orders, he added.

Bish-Jones said he was cautious about the retail environment going forward with another interest rate expected, after four in the past year. "We remain focused on running the business tightly, concentrating on cash generation, control of costs and improving margins," he said.

However, he said Woolworths was reaping the benefit of its multichannel offer, where shoppers can buy online, instore or via catalogue, and better-than-expected sales of a range of nearly 500 discount products launched in July.

Sales penetration of the "Worth It" range, aimed at taking on Tesco and Asda was running at 3-4 percent of total sales, higher than forecast.

"It's not taking Woolworths downmarket. We've made a way of grouping together entry level products," Bish-Jones said.

Seymour Pierce analyst Andrew Wade called it "a good performance" across the group while highlighting the core retail division performed against weak comparatives last year when the soccer World Cup and hot weather dampened business.

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