Countdown owner Woolworths Group had a challenging start to fiscal 2019, with total sales across the group’s sectors growing 1.9 per cent to AU$14.85 billion ($16.12 billion) in the first quarter, compared to 3.7 per cent in the first quarter of fiscal 2018.
Woolworths Group chief executive Brad Banducci said that while sales were slow, customer and brand metrics remained strong across the group, thanks to positive responses to the removal of single-use plastic bags.
By the end of the quarter, 87 Countdown stores had removed single-use plastic bags, with all remaining stores converted by mid-October.
Countdown saw strong infant formula sales in Q1, leading to a 2.6 per cent increase in total sales to AU$1.7 billion ($1.85 billion). This was impacted by the closure of three stores in the second half of FY18 and one store in the first quarter of FY19.
Countdown’s online sales remained strong, growing 40 per cent on the same period last year due to strong growth in customer pick-up.
Average prices declined 1.8 per cent in the quarter, driven by the decreasing cost of grocery, fruit and vegetables, with over 4400 products no available on the ‘Price Down program’.
By the end of the quarter, all Countdown stores had completed the roll-out of the group’s 1Store overhauled technology system, with the last stores going live in mid-August.