Robust demand in Woolworths’ food division helped offset Covid-19-related pressure in Australia and its fashion business in the last half of 2020, the retail group reports.

Woolworths Food experienced a surge in online activity and delivered market share gains, the group said in a trading update for the 26 weeks ended December 27, when group sales rose 5.3% in actual currency terms.

Woolworths Food sales rose 10.9% and online sales 158.5%, despite trading conditions across the group continuing to be affected by Covid-19, the update reads.

Woolworths said it had still experienced significantly reduced store footfall, particularly in larger shopping centres and central business district locations, and sales in Woolworths Fashion, Beauty and Home fell 11.2%. This was partially due to a weak Black Friday spend and generally lower demand for formalwear.

David Jones sales over the 26-week period declined 8.8%, while Country Road experienced a 5.2% fall, both affected by a 12-week lockdown in the State of Victoria.

The rand was weaker against the Australian dollar during the period under review, and Woolworths said its group sales in constant-currency terms fell 0.5% in the six months to December 26.

In morning trade the group’s share surged 9.28% to R44.06, putting it on track for its best day in more than seven months and putting Woolworths at its highest level in almost a year.

Update: January 25 2020

This article has been updated with share price information.


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