We have produced a chart pack of retailer performance vs market. This market share report provides two insights – 1) Performance of key ASX-listed retailers compared with market growth. 2) Market structure and individual retailer performance over time. The most interesting perspective about the data in the near-term is the recent sales performance for supermarkets, hardware, liquor, and electronics. The data includes actual six-monthly growth in industry sales to end of December 2023.
The Australian supermarket sector is under scrutiny given higher grocery prices. This report is written to give perspective about prices, profit margins and potential risk areas as the Senate inquiry is held over the next four months. Price increases in supermarkets largely reflect higher costs. However, retail prices have risen faster than the producer prices in fresh produce and red meat. Like almost all Australian businesses, supermarkets have faced higher costs and their profit margins are only slightly higher than pre COVID-19 levels.
Tobacco may be somewhat inconspicuous in supermarkets but it has a meaningful impact on sales and margin outcomes given demand has dropped significantly in the past year. Metcash faces the biggest headwind given tobacco could account for 15% of group sales. The drop in tobacco is partly driven by the rise of illicit tobacco and vaping.
Australian retail sales rose 19.4% year on year in August 2022. The three-year compound annual growth rate for August was 7.7%, very similar to July 2022 at 8.3%. The most interesting headline is online sales were down 15% year on year, but this largely reflects lockdowns from last year. The three-year online CAGR is still 27%. We expect overall retail sales will remain firm with the first signs of weakness likely in November 2022 given two years of high growth for that month. Retail sales are likely to be softer in 2023 as higher interest rates take effect and savings rates are lower.
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.
We expect a strong year of earnings growth for Australian supermarkets in FY23e. Higher food inflation is boosting sales and gross margins are also rising. We lift our FY23e EPS forecast for the major chains. Woolworths has the strongest sales growth, followed by Metcash, then Coles based on our feedback. In the full report, we address the cycle of price inflation and outlook over the next 12 months; and the outlook for Coles and Woolworths gross profit margins and EBIT margins.
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