It’s been a mixed start to the week
for Woolworths’ CEO, Roger Corbett. On Monday he copped a big serve
from a NSW Parliamentary inquiry probing the use of drugs by truck
drivers, and today produced some pretty solid third quarter sales
figures which showed the importance of the company’s plunge deeper into
the grog business. The sales figures revealed a 14.7% rise for the
third quarter and 9.4% for the first 40 weeks of the 2005 financial
year.

Woolies
said in dollar terms sales totalled just over $24 billion and that
without the impact of the Australian Leisure and Hospitality and
another hotels business in Queensland, sales still grew by more than
9%. The hotels business contributed an extra $150 million in sales in
the third quarter.

Sales
from the company’s important supermarkets and liquor business rose 9.4%
including the hotels business and 5.3% without the hotels and the
impact of Easter falling within the period (Easter has a big influence
on the food and liquor business).

Comparable store sales in
division rose 3.3% excluding Easter, compared to 3.9% with the hotels
included. The figure after Easter was excluded still represented an
improvement on the first half and there was no sign of the very sharp
slowdown in the first quarter of 2004 that took Woolies management by
surprise as rival Coles Myer’s petrol offer hit its stride and took
supermarket sales away from Woolies.

But while Roger was a winning grinner today, yesterday it was a different story as The Sydney Morning Herald
reports today. The comparison of Corbett to Adolf Hitler was a silly
and intemperate statement by Paul Gibson, chairman of the Parliamentary
Staysafe Committee, and undid much of the work that the committee had
done in pressuring the Woolies chief.

Peter Fray

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