By Aimee Chanthadavong

Supermarket giant Woolworths has achieved a 4.5 per cent increase in first quarter sales for the 2014 financial year.

Sales for the Australian food and liquor division was $10.6 billion while comparable store sales for the quarter increased 2.5 per cent with strong unit growth, particularly in Fresh, and customer growth offsetting high deflation in produce.

“Our continued focus on value through the ‘More Savings Every Day’ campaign has gained further traction with customers,” Tjeerd Jegen, managing director of Australian supermarkets and petrol, said.

“The introduction of ‘Big Family Special’ offers, sponsorship of Channel Ten’s ‘Recipe to Riches’ and ‘Aussie Animals’ collectors albums and cards have resonated well with customers.”

This growth underpinned the company’s total continued operations that increased by 6.1 per cent.

However, Big W took a hit with sales for the quarter decreasing 3.6 per cent due to the timing difference in the annual Toy Sale relative to the reporting date and ongoing price deflation, particularly in Home Entertainment.

“We advised the market earlier in the year we had commenced Big W’ strategic repositioning, which had an effect on sales growth during the quarter,” said Big W director Julie Coates.

“We have increased our focus on categories of high customer importance and are focused on driving profitable growth for our business. This strategy is already beginning to achieve results with categories such as Home, Childrenswear, Menswear, Womenswear and Toys and Sporting delivering pleasing sales during the quarter.”

Its total home improvement sales increased 28.2 per cent for the quarter with company on track in rolling out more of its Masters stores.

“Sales growth in Masters was driven by new store openings as well as a strong start to the spring season, with pleasing in our Planting and Garden Care departments,” said Masters director Melinda Smith.

The company’s online sales from continued operations increased 37 per cent for the quarter and are on track to grow to more than $1 billion in FY14.

“We are focused on the second quarter of the financial year as we enter the all important Christmas period and we continue to make good progress against our four strategic priorities,” Goyder said.