* Woolworths Q1 sales up 6 percent
* Online sales above A$1 bln in calendar 2013
* Incremental growth in food and liquor
(Updates with detail on food and liquor, outlook, shares)
SYDNEY, Feb 6 Australia's largest supermarket
chain Woolworths Ltd reported a 6 percent rise in
first-half sales on Thursday, boosted by online orders and
growth in its key food and liquor division.
Woolworths said online sales surged past A$1 billion
($891.75 million) for calendar 2013, a target that it had
originally set for 2014. It said online orders jumped 40 percent
in the first half but did not provide a full-year growth rate.
Growth in its key food and liquor division was 4.8 percent
for the first half, compared with 4.7 percent a year ago.
Chief Executive Grant O'Brien said the result was a
"positive reflection" on Woolworth's programme to reshape its
business, which included extending its leadership in the food
and liquor market.
Woolworths in August bought New Zealand-based direct
retailer EziBuy Holdings Ltd to grab a larger share of
Australia's rapidly growing online retail business. EziBuy makes
70 percent of its sales in Australia.
Group sales from continuing operations for the half-year
ended Dec. 31 rose to A$31.84 billion including petrol, up from
A$30.04 billion a year ago, the company said in a statement.
Shares in Woolworths were up 1.4 percent at A$34.39 in early
trade, after dropping at the open, in line with the broader
market. They have fallen from a peak of A$36.84 in
Woolworths and Wesfarmers Ltd-owned Coles, which
together control 80 percent of Australia's supermarket sector,
are expecting improved trading this year as consumer sentiment
improves following a tough 2013.
Woolworths previously forecast profit to rise 4 percent to 7
percent in the current year. It provided no update on that
forecast on Monday.
Analysts warn that Woolworths and Coles may record slower
gains in market share and gross margin, even as the economy
improves, as a result of regulatory changes following a price
war on basic items such as milk and bread.
The pair in November agreed to a voluntary grocery code of
conduct and to cap discounts on petrol, heading off potential
legal action by the competition regulator.
($1 = 1.1214 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Jane Wardell; Editing by Richard Pullin and