Woolies top of the tree at Christ­mas

Mercury (Hobart) - - BUSINESS - SAMAN­THA BAI­LEY

WOOL­WORTHS has tri­umphed over Coles for the third Christ­mas in a row, in­vest­ment bank Mor­gan Stan­ley says.

Wool­worths grew like-for­like sales by 3 per cent dur­ing the busy Christ­mas trad­ing pe­riod, while Coles could only man­age a 2 per cent rise, an anal­y­sis by Mor­gan Stan­ley has found.

Like-for-like sales is a closely watched in­dus­try met­ric which strips out the im­pact of stores open­ing or clos­ing.

The in­vest­ment bank also said non-food re­tail­ers suf­fered a weak Christ­mas trad­ing pe­riod, with foot traf­fic down sig­nif­i­cantly in De­cem­ber.

“Fall­ing house prices, a greater fo­cus on Black Fri­day driv­ing dis­count­ing, and weaker eq­uity mar­kets all look to have held the Aus­tralian con­sumer back this Christ­mas,” it said in a note to clients.

Foot traf­fic was down and the drop could not be ex­plained only by con­sumers brows­ing on­line and then trans­act­ing in­store, it said.

The lat­est re­tail up­date come ahead of the re­lease of Na­tional Aus­tralia Bank’s cash­less sales re­port for De­cem­ber, which is due out later this month.

Mor­gan Stan­ley said to­tal re­tail sales grew by 0.4 per cent in Novem­ber — higher than what most an­a­lysts had been ex­pect­ing but down on the prior year when growth clocked in at 1.2 per cent.

“This could sug­gest less pull for­ward of de­mand from Christ­mas sales this year, or that over­all sales growth over the last two months of the year was weaker,” the bank said.

New ve­hi­cle sales in De­cem­ber fell 14.9 per cent in the largest drop since the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis, it said.

Ris­ing food prices linked to drought and less dis­count­ing ac­tiv­ity helped lift the dol­lar value of sales, Mor­gan Stan­ley said.

“Food prices are ris­ing, which we think is partly driven by higher in­put costs linked with the drought, but also less su­per­mar­kets’ pro­mo­tional ac­tiv­ity,” the bank said. “Our chan­nel checks with sup­pli­ers in­di­cate that re­tail­ers lifted prices ra­tio­nally along­side sup­plier price in­creases, and didn’t add ex­tra mar­gin as has been the case in the past.”

Mor­gan Stan­ley said su­per­mar­ket trad­ing was “be­nign”, not­ing com­pe­ti­tion has fallen over the past two years. That trend ap­peared to have con­tin­ued in De­cem­ber as Coles started life as a newly listed com­pany on the stock ex­change, the bank said.

Still, Mor­gan Stan­ley said the abil­ity of su­per­mar­ket gi­ants to fat­ten their profit mar­gins would be con­strained by dig­i­tal in­vest­ments.

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