Lockdowns, panic buying gone by Christmas says Coles boss

Supermarket giant Coles has said it expects the heightened shopping activity that has dominated the company’s past 18 months will peter out by Christmas even as the company warned early sales for the new financial year have remained volatile.

Chief executive Steven Cain said the ongoing vaccination rollout would see fewer lockdowns and normalising shopping behaviour, bringing an end to the panic buying which had become a frequent feature of the pandemic.

Coles chief executive Steve Cain is optimistic things will be largely back to normal by Christmas.Credit:Jason South

The executive said he believed that lockdowns would be largely done with by the end of the calendar year. “I’m not a betting man, but if I was, I think 2022 will be a better year for Australia than 2021,” he said.

Sales for the company across the first seven weeks of financial year 2022 gained 1 per cent despite the weaker performance and the retailer having to match strong growth in the year-before period.

Revenue at the supermarket giant for the 2021 financial year gained 3 per cent to $38.9 billion, and the company’s underlying profits grew 2.8 per cent to $1 billion, in line with analyst expectations

Coles’ market share has also recovered to pre-COVID levels, with the company having suffered during the pandemic as shopping centres closed and customers preferred to shop locally, benefitting Woolworths and IGA.

“In another year of COVID-19, floods and bushfires, I would like to thank our team members, suppliers and community partners for their resilience and support to ensure the security of food
supply and a safe environment for our customers,” Mr Cain said.

In February, we said the short-term outlook would be dependent upon the efficacy and pace of the vaccination program. Six months on, government forecasts are pointing to a more normal outlook from early in calendar 2022 including the longer-term prospect of increased migration.”

Coles will pay a final dividend of 28 cents per share, bringing the company’s full-year dividend up to 61 cents, a 6 per cent increase on the prior year. It will be paid on September 28.

More to come.

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