Australian retail sales for November rose 2.1%. Black Friday promotions drove improvements particularly in electronics, department stores and furniture. Online food and non-food were both positive, with online food strength growing double-digits. While there are concerns about a pull forward of sales into November, our feedback suggests December sales held up reasonably well.
Australian retail sales for October 2023 rose 1.3%. Category variability continued with dining out resilient and weakness in furniture, electronics and recreational goods. Supermarkets slowed as fresh deflation dented sales. The expectation of Black Friday sales in November likely gave consumers a pause during October in some discretionary categories. Our feedback on November sales and Black Friday have been stronger.
Coles reported underlying EBIT down 5% for 2H23 in its Supermarket division. The drop in profit margins was a function of both gross margin pressure from rising theft and higher operating cost growth. Unfortunately for the company, these trends will persist into FY24e leading to a drop in EBIT margins. FY24e should be a trough in earnings. However, margin expansion is largely contingent on its capex projects delivering a return and it may take 2-3 years to prove success on this front.
Premier Investments has provided a trading update that reveals that 2H23 sales rose 1.3% and Retail EBIT fell 2.2%. In light of a weaker backdrop it is a good result. The company has also announced a strategic review that could result in separation of Peter Alexander and Smiggle and release value in its franking credit balance.
Super Retail Group reported FY23 EBIT growth of 10%. For the second-half EBIT dropped by 4%. Sales trends have held up well so far and the company has reduced its inventory. However, conditions are likely to be more challenging over the next year. As a result, profit margins will fall. The company will also have rising overheads and costs associated with its loyalty program in FY24e.
JB Hi-Fi may have reported a solid FY23 result, but the second-half provides an indication of the challenges ahead. Its 2H23 sales fell 0.5% and EBIT was down 23%. We expect sales to drop 3.0% in FY24e with EBIT down 26%. The risk to gross margins is the key unknown from here in our view. Even though JB Hi-Fi’s inventory is clean, there is elevated inventory with some suppliers and retailers. We expect EBIT margins to revert to FY19 levels by FY25e. The prospects for capital management look slim given higher working capital and capex.
A successful retailer has the right product, at the right price, at the right time. However, retailers regularly find themselves with the wrong inventory position. In Issue 6 of The Retail Mosaic, we assess the metrics used to measure inventory, the most useful red flags and the margin pain a retail with too much inventory may endure. A retailer with excess inventory can quickly sink into financial losses, but the impact usually lasts no more than 12 months. While some Australian retailers have excess inventory, the problems are being cleared quickly and inventory positions are likely to be more balanced in 2024.
Australian supermarket industry sales only rose 3% in July 2022. The slowdown is not a reflection of customers retaliating to higher prices, its merely the normalisation from lockdowns last year. In this report, we analyse the likely normalisation path in sales. Coles is likely to grow faster than Woolworths in the September quarter. However, the real winner is Metcash which is holding onto the vast majority of its customer gains. Since 2018, the fundamental shift from the majors to reduce promotions and open fewer stores has provided a better operating environment for Metcash.
City Chic reported FY22 EBITDA of $47 million (pre AASB-16), up 11%. The result was characterised by very strong revenue growth, but margin dilution from lower margin acquisitions and higher fulfillment costs. We expect sales growth to slow in FY23e to 6% as online demand normalises globally. We see further downside in gross margins given higher fulfillment costs seen in 2H22. We forecast FY23e sales of $392 million and EBITDA of $50 million. We have lifted our EBITDA forecast slightly from $49 million previously.
JB Hi-Fi provided a FY22e trading update with consistently strong sales and better gross margins in 2H22e. EBIT was 9% ahead of our forecast. The strength in sales, tightness of inventory and price rises make us more bullish in the near-term (FY23e) but more cautious on FY24e. With a net cash position, good dividend yield and low PE, we expect the stock to perform well.
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