230909 Woolworths in woodmead.photo by Simphiwe Mbokazi

Woolworths Holdings' group sales for the first 26 weeks of the 2012 financial year increased 11.4% over the comparable period in 2011. Sales in comparable stores grew by 7.7%, the company said on Tuesday.

The company also advised that it expects both earnings per share and headline earnings per share for the 26 week period to 25 December 2011 will be between 30-35% higher than the corresponding reporting period a year ago.

Clothing sales in South Africa grew by 11.2% with a price movement of 7%. Sales in comparable stores grew by 5.9%, up from 4.9% at 20 weeks.

Food sales grew by 11.7% with price movement of 4.8%. Sales in comparable stores grew by 8.4%, up from 7.2% at 20 weeks.

General merchandise grew by 6.2% and by 4.2% in comparable stores, up from 2.5% at 20 weeks.

Woolworths' retail space, including Africa, grew by 2.3% year-on-year, net of closures and excluding franchise conversions.

“Franchise store conversions are on track with 50 stores now converted. A further 8 will be converted during the balance of the year and 17 stores will remain franchised,” it said.

Converted franchise stores are treated as non-comparable.

Sales in Australia contracted 2.8% in Australian dollar terms, with sales in comparable stores declining by 5.5%. Space in Australia grew by 0.7%.

Country Road's South African sales are included in the South African clothing segment.

The Woolworths Financial Services debtors' book reflected year on year growth of 6.7% at the end of December 2011. The impairment rate for the six months to December 2011 was 1.7% compared with 1.6% for the equivalent period last year.

Woolworths said included in both EPS and HEPS is a R41 million post-tax unrealized gain from the mark-to-market of foreign exchange contracts open at 25 December 2011.

The Group's interim results are scheduled to be announced on or about 16 February 2012. - I-Net Bridge