UPDATE 2.35pm: Woolworths shares firmed after the retailer overcame tough trading conditions to lift its sales by 4.7 per cent to $56.7 billion in the 2012 financial year.
The retailer's key Australian food and liquor division increased sales by 3.8 per cent to $37.5 billion, while home improvement sales leapt 24.7 per cent and petrol sales rose 11.4 per cent.
Chief executive Grant O'Brien said the overall result was underpinned by growth in customer numbers, market share and units sold.
"The last quarter, in particular, was a stronger end to what was a challenging year," he said in a statement.
"Retail conditions remained subdued due to consumer and business uncertainty and an unseasonably cold and wet summer period."
Mr O'Brien said the tough retail conditions were exacerbated by significant price cuts due to Woolworths' price war with Australia's other supermarket giant Coles.
"Importantly these results have been achieved at a time when our customers are benefiting from lower prices due to strong competition and continuing deflation across our businesses,” he said.
"This confirms the resilience of our business as we continually adapt to the changing economic environment. There is a lot of hard work ahead, but with a lot of upside as well."
Mr O'Brien said Woolworths was still planned to build new stores and open new businesses such as its home improvement chain Masters.
"Despite the tough economic times, we will continue to invest in developing new stores, building our multi-option infrastructure and building new businesses like Masters, which will benefit the whole community through additional jobs and economic growth,” he said.Woolworths shares closed up 27 cents at $27.89 in a broadly weaker market.
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