Coronavirus panic buying rockets Coles sales to record levels

Mass panic buying in March saw supermarket giant Coles book its highest-ever quarterly sales growth.

Coronavirus panic buying rockets Coles sales to record levels

Mass panic buying in March saw supermarket giant Coles book its highest-ever quarterly sales growth.

An "extraordinary March sales spike" topped out at 13.1 per cent growth in quarterly comparable sales across its supermarkets.

Coles said total supermarket sales revenue for the third quarter rose to $8.23 billion - up 13.8 per cent on the same time last year - as shoppers stockpiled groceries in the face of looming COVID-19 restrictions.

For comparison, a successful 2019 Christmas shopping period yielded second-quarter comparative sales growth of 3.6 per cent across Coles' supermarket network.

Since the start of April, however, comparable sales growth has broadly trended back towards pre COVID-19 levels.

Chief executive Steve Cain said shoppers were packing their baskets with more food but shopping less, meaning less convenience and impulse products.

There has also been a move towards more cooking and baking from scratch.

Mr Cain said people were buying fewer bottles of wine over a $20 price point and larger packs of common beer labels, instead of craft beer.

He was unsure if this trend reflected people tightening their spending or simply trying to buy in bulk because of supply pressures.

"Value will be high on the public agenda," Mr Cain said, forecasting consumer spending habits for the months ahead.

The grocery boss said customers had been purchasing heavily in home baking ingredients and cheaper home brand items.

Mr Cain couldn't help but reference the "now iconic toilet paper surge" which is only now just showing signs of easing.

For the fourth quarter, Mr Cain said Easter trading was more subdued this year due to restrictions on traditional family and friends events and celebrations.

He also expects higher costs in quarter four as a result of the company's extra COVID-19 investments.

This includes paying staff for longer hours as well as remunerating extra staff members who were brought on deck to help with increased traffic.

There will also be increased store cleaning costs and price pressures associated with the effects of the drought and bushfires.

The company's liquor division - despite being hurt by bushfire smog and floods in January and February - managed comparable sales growth of 7.2 per cent for the third quarter as pubs, clubs, and hotels were shut.

Sales at the company's Liquorland, First Choice, Liquor Market and Vintage Cellars stores rose 6.1 per cent to $740 million and is expected to continue to be elevated as long as restrictions on licensed venues continues.

Coles Online sales revenue grew by 14 per cent in the third quarter, despite Home Delivery and Click and Collect being temporarily suspended in March prior to the launch of Coles Online Priority Service.

Mr Cain said short term supply issues for items such as flour and toilet paper would most likely continue as demand remains elevated.

He also said it could be weeks or months before stores are fully restocked with products such as disinfectant wipes and hand sanitisers, though they are still currently available.

Three pop-up distribution centres were opened in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland as capacity increased while Coles put on an additional 12,000 team members to ensure improved stock replenishment during COVID.

Mr Cain said it was unclear how long the various impacts of COVID-19 outlined above may continue to impact the business, depending on the extent or timing of the existing or any future Government measures.

He said most Australians wanted the economy to be restarted as soon as possible.

Coles shares fell by 2.9 per cent to $15.76 after 20 minutes of trade on Wednesday, but have still risen by 9.4 per cent in 2020 against 20.3 per cent drop for the wider ASX/200.

With AAP

Source : 9 News More   

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Amid pandemic, Italy sees hope in Genoa bridge completion

Nearly two years after a highway bridge in Genoa collapsed and killed 43 people, workers moved the final piece of a replacement span into place Tuesday in a milestone hailed by Italy's premier as a symbolic show of unity and hope amid the coronavirus emergency.

Amid pandemic, Italy sees hope in Genoa bridge completion

Nearly two years after a highway bridge in Genoa collapsed and killed 43 people, workers moved the final piece of a replacement span into place Tuesday in a milestone hailed by Italy's premier as a symbolic show of unity and hope amid the coronavirus emergency.

As church bells tolled and fog horns blared, the central chunk of roadway was hoisted into position above now-abandoned homes and businesses lining the dry Polcevera riverbed. The installation of the final segment marked the completion of structural work to reunite two sides of Genoa, but the bridge's actual reopening is several months off.

Premier Giuseppe Conte made a rare outing from Rome to attend the ceremony, following stops Monday in Lombardy, the region hardest-hit by the virus pandemic. Wearing a hard hat and a neon construction vest over his suit, Conte said the completion of the bridge "sutures a wound, reconnecting a fundamental artery to the centre and heart of this community and city."

He said the new bridge also provides an image of Italian strength and ingenuity in the face of tragedy that can serve as a model as Italy struggles to emerge from the tragedy of the pandemic. Recalling the Genoa lighthouse, a symbol of the port city, Conte said Genoa today casts a light of hope on the whole country.

"Today, with this light from Genoa, we are giving a new face to all of Italy," the premier said.

A view of the collapsed Morandi highway bridge in Genoa, Italy.

The replacement bridge is in the same area as the original Ponte Morandi, which was demolished after it collapsed on Aug. 14, 2018. The original bridge, named for the engineer who designed it, Riccardo Morandi, was built during the 1960s and became a key artery for Ligurian coastal communities and link from Italy to France.

Morandi warned a decade after the bridge opened that it would need continuous maintenance to remove rust given the effects of corrosion from sea air and pollution on the concrete. The span's collapse, with dozens of cars and trucks on it, was the most deadly in a series of bridge disasters in recent years and exposed the horrific state of Italy's ageing road infrastructure.

Genoa Morandi bridge

It subsequently emerged that authorities were aware the Ponte Morandi's concrete had corroded over time and that the bridge was structurally compromised. Criminal investigations were opened to ascertain blame.

Italian architect and Genoa native Renzo Piano was selected to design the replacement bridge. Construction work continued even after most Italian industry came to a halt last month to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Italy is the European epicentre of the pandemic and one of the world's worst-hit countries. The government has reported more than 26,000 virus-related deaths, half of them in the northern Lombardy region. Nearby Liguria, of which Genoa is the capital, has more than 7,000 confirmed cases and more than 1,000 dead.

Source : 9 News More   

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