By James Atkinson

The underlying performance of Coles' liquor operations improved in the first half of the 2013 financial year, parent company Wesfarmers revealed this morning.

Releasing Wesfarmers' second quarter retail sales results for the period ending December 31, finance director Terry Bowen said liquor continued to negatively impact on Coles' overall sales figures, this time holding the rest of the division back by about 1.2 per cent.

But Bowen said the company was pleased with liquor's sales performance in the context of the repositioning of the division that is currently in progress.

Coles managing director Ian McLeod said: "The underlying performance of liquor improved in the first half as a result of encouraging wine category performance and more effective promotions in the run up to Christmas."

Coles' headline food and liquor sales for the second quarter were $7.7 billion, up five per cent on the previous corresponding period. Headline sales in the first half of the 2013 financial year increased by 5 per cent to $14.3 billion.

Comparable food and liquor store sales increased by 3.9 per cent in the second quarter and 3.8 per cent in the first half. 

Coles opened 20 new liquor stores and one hotel and closed five liquor stores during the quarter, taking the total number of liquor stores and hotels to 895.

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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