Woolworths' New Zealand Countdown supermarkets eked out a small gain in annual earnings as it sold a greater volume of goods at lower prices.

The local unit of the Australian retailer reported earnings before interest and tax of $296 million in the 53 weeks ended June 30, up an adjusted 1 per cent from the 52-week period a year earlier. Sales rose 2.4 per cent on an adjusted basis to $6.71 billion.

Countdown's volume of comparable transactions rose in each of the retailer's New Zealand quarters of its financial year, ranging between 0.2-3.2 per cent growth. However, average prices contracted in each quarter by 0.3-1.8 per cent.

"New Zealand food had a strong second half with comparable sales growth of 3.6 per cent and normalised H2 ebit growth of 4.4 per cent," group chief executive Brad Banducci said in a statement.

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Government data this month showed retail spending at supermarket and grocery stores rose 2.7 per cent to $20.69b in the 12 months ended June 30 from the previous year.

Based on that, Countdown increased its market share to 32.4 per cent from 31.9 per cent.

The New Zealand supermarket chain's online sales rose a normalised 40 per cent in the year, and accounted for 6.8 per cent of sales, above the 4.2 per cent of company-wide sales. Online sales growth gained momentum through the year, with Countdown's fourth-quarter online sales up 50 per cent at $125m, accounting for 7.7 per cent of total sales.

In the first quarter of the year, online sales were up 40 per cent at $107m and accounted for 6.4 per cent of total sales.

The chain closed three stores and opened two, leaving it with 180 at the end of the period. It also refurbished 10 other stores in the year.

Woolworths' group profit was up 56 per cent at A$2.69b ($2.87b), including a A$1.2b gain on the sale of its petrol business. Profit from continuing operations was up 7.2 per cent at A$1.75b, and annual dividend payments of A$1.02 per share were up 9.7 per cent.

The ASX-listed shares decreased 1.1 per cent to A$35.77.

Woolworths NZ

$296m ebit, up 1%
$6.71b sales, up 2.4%
40% growth in online sales, accounting for 6.8% of total sales

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