Woolworths, JB Hi-Fi, Myer see retail growth

The widely followed Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) monthly Retail Trade data has been released and the figures show turnover rose 0.2% in April. The categories providing the largest positive contributions were food retailing followed by clothing, footwear and personal accessories. Offsetting these growth categories were the detracting categories of department stores and household goods.

The ABS data provides an interesting comparison with the most recent commentary available from major retailers.

David Jones (ASX: DJS) like-for-like sales fell 3.4% in the third quarter compared with the previous corresponding period (pcp). Management explained some of this fall by reducing the level of discounting and exiting low productivity categories. In contrast, Myer (ASX: MYR) recently reported growth in comparable store sales for its third quarter of 0.4%. This made it the fourth consecutive quarter of positive comparable store sales growth for Myer.

Woolworths (ASX: WOW) in its third-quarter sales update showed why it is one of Australia’s top retailers. The company grew comparable store sales in the Australian Food and Liquor division by 3.1%. Meanwhile, JB Hi-Fi (ASX: JBH) has continued its solid performance. In early May the company updated the market with news that for the four months ended 30 April 2013, its comparable store sales growth was 3% on the pcp.

Lastly, Harvey Norman’s (ASX: HVN) results provided mixed reading for shareholders with the near-term improvement contrasting with a still negative longer-term picture. The overall like-for-like sales for the third quarter were growth of 2%, however on the longer time frame of the nine months ending 31 March 2013 sale decreased by 3.2%.

Foolish takeaway

While the result for April’s retail turnover looks weak, at least it was a positive, not a negative number. More importantly the trend estimate rose to 3.2%, which may give investors some confidence in the outlook for future retail sales.

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Motley Fool contributor Tim McArthur does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article.

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