Coles credits Pokemon with lifting supermarket sales

Derek Rose |

Coles Group had a 3.6 per cent drop in half-year profit of $594 million on sales of $19.8 billion.
Coles Group had a 3.6 per cent drop in half-year profit of $594 million on sales of $19.8 billion.

A successful Pokemon collectibles campaign helped Coles grow its supermarket sales in the March quarter, offsetting a drop in liquor sales blamed on cost of living pressures.

As the public and political glare intensifies on the profits of supermarket giants, Coles Group had $9.07 billion in grocery sales for the 12 weeks to March 24, up 5.1 per cent from the same period a year ago. 

Coles attributed sales at its Liquorland chain dropping 1.9 per cent to $786 million to customers reducing their discretionary spending on alcohol because of economic pressures, as well as its bottle shops transitioning away from less profitable bulk sales.

Coles Group CEO Leah Weckert
Leah Weckert revealed Coles had $9.07 billion in supermarket sales for the 12 weeks to March 24. (Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS)

The Pokemon Builders campaign of cardboard models helped lift Coles’ sales compared to the same period last year, when it had no collectible campaign, chief executive Leah Weckert said.

“We’re very pleased with the results in the results in supermarkets today, in terms of both the sales and volume growth that we have achieved and we continue to have a huge focus on providing value to customers as we head into Q4,” Ms Weckert said on Tuesday.

E-commerce supermarket sales grew 34.9 per cent to $856 million, online alcohol sales climbed 4.1 per cent to $44 million and the number of customers using Coles app each month was up 44.1 per cent.

Total supermarket price inflation moderated to 2.2 per cent in the latest quarterly figures, from 3.0 per cent in the previous period, providing relief to financially squeezed customers.

Prices fell for some fresh produce including red meat and various fruits, while bakery prices rose because of wheat commodity prices, Coles said.

Ms Weckert told reporters anti-theft initiatives were reducing stock loss. 

Coles results
Coles is introducing technology at supermarkets to reduce the amount of theft. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS)

In several hundred of its 851 supermarkets Coles has implemented bar gates and “skip scan” technology that determines if the wrong item is scanned by a customer. 

Last quarter it began adding a new anti-theft feature known as “bottom of the trolley” that identifies bulk items as they are added to a cart.

The supermarket group’s half-year results from February showed Coles gaining on Woolworths during the period. 

It will become clear on Thursday when Woolworths reports third-quarter sales results if that momentum has continued.

The supermarket giants are under significant public and political pressure as they face state and federal parliamentary inquiries and an investigation by the competition and consumer watchdog over claims of price gouging.