'Ooshies' collectables help Australia's Woolworths post 7% rise in sales

Credit: REUTERS/STAFF

Woolworths Group Ltd, Australia's largest supermarket chain, posted a 7.1% rise in first-quarter sales on Wednesday, helped by its widely popular collectable toys promotion, as well as an uptick in online sales.

Adds details on results, Coles

Oct 30 (Reuters) - Woolworths Group Ltd WOW.AX, Australia's largest supermarket chain, posted a 7.1% rise in first-quarter sales on Wednesday, helped by its widely popular collectable toys promotion, as well as an uptick in online sales.

The company's total sales from continuing operations came in at A$15.90 billion ($10.91 billion) in the three months ended Sept. 30, up from A$14.85 billion a year earlier.

Grocery sales rose 6.6% on a comparable-store basis, which excludes store openings and closures. Group online sales jumped 37.4%.

Woolworths' sales were driven by its plastic souvenirs, or "Ooshies", of Disney movie "The Lion King" reaching cult-like status in Australia, with media reports of people advertising the free items for sale for thousands of dollars.

Smaller rival Coles Group Ltd COL.AX booked much slower comparable sales growth for the quarter. The company had in August warned it may struggle to grow sales because of competition for consumers from the Ooshies offering.

Both the retailers are seen as barometers of the overall Australian economy, together collecting a majority of grocery dollars spent in the country.

The results are a contrast from the same period a year ago, when Woolworths lost out on sales after it started charging shoppers for plastic bags and due to Coles' promotional toy offerings.

On Wednesday, Woolworths also said it would take a one-off cost of A$200 to A$300 million related to repayment to certain workers who had not been paid according to industry standards.

($1 = A$1.46)

(Reporting by Ambar Warrick and Niyati Shetty in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Maju Samuel)

((Ambar.Warrick@thomsonreuters.com; +91-80-6749-6625; Reuters Messaging: ambar.warrick.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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