By Claire Reilly

Woolworths Limited has released its first quarter results for the 14 weeks until 30 September, seven days before it sold the struggling Dick Smith retail business to Anchorage Capital Partners.

Woolworths’ Australian consumer electronics business saw $285 million in sales in the first three months of the new financial year, which was down 12.6 per cent from the same period in 2011. The New Zealand business also fared poorly, bringing in $57 million in sales (measured in Australian dollars), which was down 9.5 per cent on the previous year.

Despite this decline, the figures for Q1 FY13 were roughly on par with the preceding period. In Q4 FY12, Woolworths’ Australian consumer electronics division had sales of $285 million, while New Zealand was unchanged at AUD $57 million.

It was a different story for Big W, which brought in $1.1 billion in sales, up 6.2 per cent on the previous year, and Masters, which saw a 62 per cent increase in sales up to $305 million, thanks to the opening of new stores.

Total sales for the Woolworths group of companies were $15.2 billion, up 4.3 per cent year-on-year.

“This was a pleasing start to the year with momentum created towards the end of the last financial year continuing through the first quarter,” said Woolworths Limited CEO, Grant O’Brien. “We we have made progress against our strategic priorities, there is still a great deal to do in our business transformation programs.

“Big W reported a solid result, demonstrated by increased customer numbers and items sold during a quarter that experienced continuing deflation. This improving trend reflects work undertaken to improve marketing, range and price perception.

“The results of our investment in Masters can be seen in the significant sales growth achieved in Home Improvement. We continue to be pleased by the performance of this business as it continues to meet its targets.

“Online sales increased by 30 per cent for the quarter,” he added. “We are now focused on the second quarter, being the all important Christmas trading period.”

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