By Claire Moffat

In February it was a huntsman in the Italian mixed salad, in April it was a redback in the broccoli, last weekend it was mice in the bakery. Today it’s a predicted $70 million loss in the June-half by BIG W that is most likely keeping Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci awake at night.

The company’s results arrived yesterday with the news that Big W will report its first annual loss since the 1990s. Woolworths General Merchandise covers Big W and EziBuy stores and sales of $865 million for the third quarter decreased 4.6% on the previous year. Comparable stores sales dropped 4.5%, adjusted for Easter.

Brad Banducci

In its statement to the ASX, Woolworths said Big W’s comparable sales were mainly hit “by a disappointing customer response to our new season ranges, reflecting poor merchandising decisions in 2015 with no improvement in customer transactions despite cycling systems implementation issues”.

The long summer that Australia has been experiencing has also affected clothing sales, one of the main attractions for Big W customers. (Appliance Retailer will soon report on the performance of heating appliances during this period).

“Sales have also been impacted by ongoing clearance activity on summer ranges, slow sales of winter apparel impacted by warm weather and a highly promotional Easter period,” Woolworths said.

Meanwhile, Baducci could also be forgiven for feeling that he is in the middle of a bad movie after being alerted to Channel Sevens’ news report yesterday that a mouse had been found eating biscuits inside a bakery cabinet in a South Australian Port Lincoln store.

This report came out on the same day that Baducci, who has been in the job for just two months, announced that bakery items would spearhead the retailers’ new Everyday Low Prices campaign.

“Getting our customers to put us 1st is our priority and good progress has been made on delivering better prices and improved service to our customers.

“We are also embedding a customer and store team culture across our Group,” he said.

This story first appeared in Appliance Retailer