Woolworths Holdings today announced interim results for the 26 weeks ended 29 December 2019. Group turnover and concession sales increased by 3.8% to R40.9 billion and adjusted profit before tax of R2.4 billion was down 12.3%. Earnings per share and headline earnings per share (‘HEPS’) decreased by 9.0% and 10.1% respectively. Adjusted diluted HEPS decreased by 11.7% to 179.1 cents per share.*
Commenting on the results, Ian Moir, WHL Group CEO during the period, said, “This was another tough period of trade. Although we had a strong first quarter in our South African fashion business, our second quarter was more challenging, with improvements in kidswear, menswear and lingerie, offset by a number of product issues in womenswear and a disappointing Black Friday sales period. Trade in David Jones improved in the second quarter, but margins remained under pressure driven by the inclusion of Boxing Day clearance in the first half, a higher proportion of promotional sales, and reversal of inventory-related provisions in the prior year.
Challenging economic conditions in both markets, with the additional burden of power outages in South Africa, and bushfires affecting footfall in Australia, further impacted trade. Against this background, however, Woolworths Food delivered another market-leading performance and Country Road Group delivered positive comparable store sales growth, with an outstanding performance from the Country Road brand. Online sales in all four businesses saw strong growth,” adds Moir.
Woolworths Fashion, Beauty and Home (‘FBH’)
Sales and comparable store sales both grew by 2.2% and by 0.9% after adjusting for the shift in trading weeks**. Gross profit margin decreased by 0.5% to 46.6%. The Fashion business turnaround continues to be an imperative, specifically in Womenswear, with a focus on design to deliver better ranges and taste levels. Online sales were up 29.5% due to increased availability and online promotions.
Woolworths Food continued its consistent above-market growth with sales up by 8.1%, and by 7.8% after adjusting for the shift in trading weeks**, with comparable store sales 5.4% higher. Gross profit margin of 24.6% was in line with the prior period despite further price investment. The business has maintained positive volume growth and continues to grow market share through its absolute focus on quality product and innovation. The Foods digital experience is progressing well with online sales up 22.3%. Woolworths Financial Services
The Woolworths Financial Services debtors’ book reflected positive year-on-year growth of 8.3% as at the end of December 2019. The annualised impairment rate for the six months ended 31 December 2019 was 3.3% (six months ended 31 December 2018: 3.2%).
Sales for the period increased by 4.9% and were 0.5% lower after adjusting for the shift of the Christmas week**. Comparable store sales (which include online) were 0.4% lower after adjusting for the trading week shift. Online sales grew by 61.8% and now comprise 10.4% of total sales, exceeding strategic targets set for 2020. There remained significant disruption from the Elizabeth Street store refurbishment in the half with the Ground Floor closed until 11 December 2019. Gross profit margin was 2.9% lower than the prior period.
Country Road Group
Country Road Group Sales declined by 2.5%, and increased by 3.3%, excluding the sales impact of the Myer exit. Comparable store sales (which include online) grew by 0.1% after adjusting for the shift in trading weeks**. Country Road delivered an outstanding performance, which was offset by fashion misses in Witchery. Gross profit margin down 1.7% to 62.3%. Online sales in Australasia grew by 6.2% and now represent 21.4% of total Australasia sales, also exceeding 2020 targets.
As the contribution from online sales increases, the reduction of unproductive space remains a priority in David Jones and the Country Road Group.
The Board has declared an interim cash dividend of 89 cents, a 3.3% decrease on the prior period
In South Africa, consumers will remain under pressure from a weak economy amidst continued power outages. The Woolworths Fashion business will focus on improving performance through better pricing and ranges, particularly in Womenswear. Woolworths Food is expected to continue to trade ahead of the market.
In Australia, consumer spending is likely to be muted in the short-term due to stagnant wage growth and the impact of the bushfires. The heightened levels of competition and promotional activity are expected to continue. David Jones is expected to benefit from the completion of the Elizabeth Street store refurbishment, with trade normalising from the fourth quarter and the Market Street rent ceasing from FY2021.
In both geographies, online is an increasingly important channel for the Group and we continue to invest in this growth driver.
The Coronavirus is significantly impacting tourism, footfall and sales in Australia. A further impact on sourcing is also expected across the Group. The Group is currently actively considering ways to mitigate the risks associated with the Coronavirus.
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