Coles boss Steven Cain says drought, bushfires and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has provided the “greatest test” for the supermarket giant in its hundred-year history.
Even so, Coles has lifted its full-year profit by 5.7 per cent, buoyed by consumer stockpiling before COVID-19-led lockdowns across the country.
Net profit excluding significant and other items was $951 million for 2019/20, compared to $900 million the year before.
Its statutory result was $978 million, down 31.8 per cent from $1.44 billion, although those figures included now discontinued businesses.
There was notable growth in both online and liquor sales as a result of the pandemic.
Coles’s retail sales revenue was up 6.9 per cent to $37.41 billion.
“Trading increased significantly in the latter stages of the third quarter as customers began pantry stocking in advance of COVID-19 social distancing measures being introduced,” Coles said on Tuesday.
“The associated transition to in-home consumption supported elevated trade through to the end of the year.”
Liquor sales surged by 20 per cent in the final three months of the financial year.
“A large proportion of the sales increase was down to people being at home rather than out at pubs and clubs,” Mr Cain told reporters.
Online sales revenue grew by 18.1 per cent to $1.3 billion for the year.
Mr Cain said it was uncertain whether such growth can be maintained when conditions return to some sort of normality.
“There’s no doubt some of those customers will want to get back out again and do more shopping in due course,” Mr Cain told reporters.
In the interim, he expects a lot more people will become unemployed due to the virus-led recession in Australia.
“That will impact businesses and livelihoods across Australia,” he warned.
But he was very supportive of the measures the federal government has put in place so far to soften the blow of the first recession in nearly 30 years and is confident it will continue to do so.
However, Mr Cain said there still a lot of uncertainty ahead.
“I don’t think anyone knows what’s going to happen in six months time at the moment,” he said.
Coles will pay a final dividend of 27.5 cents, taking the total for the year to 57.5 cents per share.