Strong sales continue to be achieved by Coles and Bunnings despite consumer sentiment remaining subdued throughout the 2012 first quarter.

In its retail results for the first quarter of this financial year, Wesfarmers reported that Coles’ comparable food and liquor store sales grew by 5.2 per cent

Coles managing director Ian McLeod said the first quarter results represented strong progress in a tough retail environment.

“This reflects the ongoing transformation program we are rolling out across the business, as well as the customer response to our continued investment in lower prices through our ‘Down Down’ initiative,” he said.

“However, weak consumer confidence in the face of rising living costs will continue to make trading conditions challenging in the lead up to Christmas.”

Similarly, Bunnings reported total sales for the quarter of $1.7 billion were up 8.5 per cent on the previous corresponding period. Total store sales for the quarter grew 8.9 per cent, while store-on-store growth was 6.3 per cent

John Gillam, managing director of home improvement and office supplies, said the focus in the business is on driving further service improvements for consumer and commercial customers, expanding categories, enhancing merchandising, growing the network and reinvesting in existing locations.

“The range reset work we undertook more than 18 months ago has been the catalyst for increased customer value, simpler customer choices, optimisation of selling space and stronger supplier relationships.

“As previously highlighted the range reset and value focus work will have some impact on margins in the short term however will continue to underpin significant longer term value creation.

“Strong momentum across the business towards delivering customers the best offer has Bunnings well positioned for further sales growth,” Mr Gillam said.

On the other hand, Target continues to experience “difficult trading conditions” with sales negatively affected by ongoing deflation and a high level of promotional activity in the market. The retailer reported total sales of $835 million for the quarter6 were 1.4 per cent below the previous corresponding period, with comparable7 store sales declining 4.1 per cent.

Kmart and Officeworks were “broadly flat” where total sales was $927 million, up 0.1 per cent and $361 million, up 0.3 per cent on the previous corresponding period, respectively.