Woolworths' fashion business performance 'disappointing'

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Woolworths says it begun the process of repositioning of its fashion business, with performance in that sector still disappointing with a sales decline of 11.2% for the six months ended 27 December.

The retailer said on Thursday that the net space for the Fashion Beauty Home (FBH) division was reduced by 1.9%, in line with its focus on improving store operating efficiency.

Analysts had predicted that Woolworths might have to cut down on the number of stores it has and will struggle to maintain market share.

As a silver lining, the group said online sales for their clothing business grew by 118.8%. 

"Woolworths Food remained resilient throughout the reporting period, delivering further volume and market share gains, driven by innovation, convenience and the focused price investment strategy," said the group.

Sales for their food business grew by 10.9% with online showing a sales growth of 158.5%, contributing 2.2% to sales, with the expansion of delivery options.

For their Australasian operations the group said early expectations of a recovery in Australia were short-lived due to lockdown resulting in unplanned store closures.

However, on the back of successful Black Friday and Cyber Monday campaigns together with the impact of government support on consumer discretionary spend,  there was an improvement in sales performance in the last six weeks of the reporting period.

Beleaguered David Jones saw a sales decline by 8.8% while Country Road’s sales over the half also declined by 5.2%.

Group sales for the period increased by 5.3% to R43 billion, partly attributed to the sale of the Bourke Street Mens property in David Jones which was completed in the period, resulting in proceeds of A$121.0 million; and the renegotiation of various leases, which resulted in lease exit and modification gains.

"Whilst we are pleased with some of the progress that we have made to date, we remain steadfastly focused on the other elements of our strategic priorities, including the repositioning of FBH, maintaining our leadership position in food, our real estate optimisation efforts in David Jones and driving growth through digital, online and data," said the group.

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