Woolworths has reported a 10 per cent jump in food sales at its Australian supermarkets for the third quarter, due to panic buying amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The retail giant reported food sales of $11.1 billion for the 13 weeks to April 5 – which is 10.3 per cent comparable growth.
The result falls short of the growth experienced at chief rival Coles, which on Wednesday reported an unprecedented 13.1 per cent sales growth and $8.23 billion in third quarter supermarket revenue.
Woolies said sales growth peaked in the week ended March 22 at 40 per cent.
Toilet paper, cleaning goods, rice and pasta were the most popular items.
New Zealand’s total food sales had a 13.4 per cent jump to $1.8 billion.
Sales at Big W climbed 9.9 per cent to $866 million, and Endeavour Drinks rose by 8.9 per cent to $2.2 billion.
Woolworths’ hotels recorded a 2.4 per cent rise to $350 million, despite being closed from March 23 due to social distancing restrictions.
However this division will make a loss before interest and tax of $30 million to $35 million per month while pubs are closed.
Woolworths said sales growth in April has moderated compared to March.
The many measures put in place to cope with the earlier sales boom will cost between $220 and $275 million in the fourth quarter.
About 22,000 temporary staff were hired and continue to ensure social distancing, improved warehouse operations, security and cleaning.
Management hopes sales can offset these costs, however it said sales for the remainder of the financial year were very difficult to predict.
Woolworths is continuing to compensate the more than 7,000 current and former supermarket staff it underpaid, after learning of the errors last year.
These payments will be finished by the end of the 2020 calendar year.