June 8, 2020 / 10:53 PM / a month ago

Virus-driven lockdown bumps Wesfarmers online sales up 89%

(Reuters) - Australian retail giant Wesfarmers Ltd (WES.AX) on Tuesday reported an 89% surge in online sales so far this calendar year, powered by its Bunnings and Officeworks units, as coronavirus-enforced curbs led customers to do more digital shopping.

The two units, which provide hardware products and office supplies, helped sales growth in the second-half to date outpace the first-half as more people worked from home, the company said.

The result highlights brick-and-mortar store operators’ growing reliance on online trade amid the pandemic.

Wesfarmers said it was uncertain if the sales growth would continue for the rest of the calendar year, as the relaxing of restrictions could alter shopping trends.

Bunnings, which operates out of more than 370 locations in Australia and New Zealand, will book about A$70 million ($49 million) in costs due to the lockdown in New Zealand, store closures, and the accelerated roll-out of its online offering.

Wesfarmers added that its discount department stores, Kmart and Target, also saw improved sales in recent weeks, with demand particularly strong for winter clothing.

The company last month said it would close or rebrand nearly two-thirds of its Target stores and take one-off charges of up to A$650 million as the coronavirus crimped demand.

Reporting by Shashwat Awasthi in Bengaluru; Editing by Chris Reese and Stephen Coates

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