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Woolworths first-half sales up 3.2%


Grocery giant Woolworths has made $30.7 billion in first-half sales with the retailer saying it had placed a greater focus on its core business.

The company on Thursday said its sales for the 27 weeks to December 30 were up 3.2 per cent on the previous corresponding period.

Chief executive Grant O'Brien said the result was pleasing but more work was needed.

"This solid first-half result is a reflection of the sharpened focus on our core businesses and better meeting our customers needs," he said in a statement.

First-half sales excluding its discontinued consumer electronics divisions were $30.0 billion, up 4.8 per cent on the previous year.

Woolworths supermarket division sales growth continued to lag behind its rival Coles, with the $26.2 billion first-half sales result up 3.7 per cent on 2011/12.

Coles' 2012/13 first-half sales were $18.3 billion, up 4.7 per cent on its previous corresponding period.

However, Mr O'Brien said, Woolworths had continued to grow its market share in food and liquor, and had returned to price inflation for produce.

"Australian food and liquor performed well, growing by $0.9 billion, and continued to increase market share, customer numbers, basket size and items sold when compared to the same period last year," he said.

Department store Big W made $2.4 billion in first half sales, an increase of 3.6 per cent on the previous year, after a strong Christmas.

Woolworths' hotels reported sales growth of 19.3 per cent on the previous year to $7.59 billion and the company's home improvement brand Masters had a 54.6 per cent increase in sales to $6.37 billion.

Mr O'Brien said Woolworths was continuing to grow its Masters brand with 25 stores now trading, 10 of which opened during the half.

The growth in its hotel division was driven by the acquisition of 29 hotels in NSW, two in Queensland, one in Western Australia and changes to Victorian gaming regulations, Mr O'Brien said.