Sales at Countdown supermarkets rose 1.9 per cent in the first quarter of the 2017 financial year, which Australian parent Woolworths attributed to a focus on low prices.

New Zealand food sales in the 14 weeks to October 2 were $1.59 billion, up from $1.56b in the same quarter of the 2016 financial year, Woolworths said in an update to the Australian stock exchange.

In Australian dollars, sales gained 8.1 per cent to A$1.5b (NZ$1.6 billion), with the larger gain down to the stronger New Zealand dollar against the Australian dollar.

Comparable sales dipped 0.7 per cent in the first quarter, with deflation at 0.5 per cent, as the company "cycled the impact of last year's bulk gift card sales and successful dominoes promotional campaign", Woolworths' commentary to the results said, adding that its "focus on low prices continues to drive positive customer growth".

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There are now 183 Countdown stores in New Zealand, with the company opening one and closing two in the quarter, while the number of franchise stores was unchanged at 64.

The ASX-listed parent reported a 1 per cent gain in total first-quarter sales to A$15.3b, which includes its income from its Australian supermarkets, petrol sales, its Big W chain and hotels.

The trading performance over Christmas will be crucial to Woolworths' 2017 financial performance, chief executive Brad Banducci said.

The shares last traded at A$24.80 on the ASX, and have gained 1.2 per cent this year.