The boss of some of Australia’s biggest businesses has blamed catastrophic fires and smoke haze for lower-than-expected Christmas sales.
The boss of some of Australia’s biggest businesses has blamed catastrophic fires and smoke haze for lower-than-expected Christmas sales.

How catastrophic fires hurt nation’s major outdoor brands

BUSHFIRES and drought have hit the bottom line of Australia's biggest outdoor brands, with Super Retail Group recording lower than expected trade across the Christmas period.

Super Retail Group, which owns the BCF, Macpac, Rebel Sport and Supercheap Auto brands, reported flat like-for-like sales in December and November.

Total sales growth for the group was at 2.9 per cent for the first half of the year and like-for-like-sales at 1.7 per cent, it revealed in a note to the ASX yesterday.

The group's first-half earnings is now expected to be between $113m and $115m.

Super Retail said more than 50 of its BCF stores were affected by bushfires and drought, while Macpac's sales also slid 9.5 per cent as a result.

Bushland is burnt at Bilpin, in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)
Bushland is burnt at Bilpin, in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

Group CEO Anthony Heraghty said the Black Friday and Cyber Monday events had boosted sales growth earlier in the period, but bushfires and haze weakened December trade within its outdoor category.

"After a strong start to our peak trade season with higher year-on-year trading across the Black Friday and Cyber Monday online events, the bushfires and sustained drought conditions have impacted December trading," he said.

"Whilst we expect the impact to be one-off, it is difficult to estimate how long it will take for sales to recover, specifically in the outdoor category."

Yesterday Super Retail Group shares fell 1.8 per cent to $9.58.

Macpac's life-for-like sales declined 9.5 per cent with New South Wales and Victoria heavily affected by fire.

Supercheap Auto and Rebel sales also slowed.

Mr Heraghty said beyond the bushfires, earnings were primarily affected by higher store labour costs and the underperformance of Macpac.

He expects gross margin in the second half of the financial year to be higher as customers and the environment recovered from catastrophic bushfires.

"It's important to distinguish what's a cyclical event and what's structural," he said of the fire season.

"While first half earnings were challenged by exceptional circumstances, there are a number of positives in the expected result that bode well for the second half.

"As we get into recovery one thing we know about our customers is they are very passionate about the outdoors.

"Ultimately the rationale to get back into camping will be a person's love for it."


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