Despite solid sales to start year, JB warns of uncertain times ahead

JB Hi-Fi has warned of an uncertain period ahead after seeing sales growth pare back in January amid rising interest rates and high inflation.

A customer is seen outside a JB Hi-Fi store in Brisbane. . (AAP Image/Darren England)

A customer is seen outside a JB Hi-Fi store in Brisbane. . (AAP Image/Darren England)

The consumer electronics and whitegoods retailer on Monday said total sales at its flagship Australian business rose 2.5 per cent in January, compared to a 4.3 per cent increase in January 2022.

Sales at subsidiary The Good Guys remained flat against a 2.5 per cent increase in the same month last year.

“While we are pleased with the January trading result, with sales continuing to be well above pre-Covid January 2020, we have seen sales growth start to moderate from the elevated levels seen in the first half of fiscal 2023,” group chief executive Terry Smart said.

By 1100 AEDT, JB Hi-Fi shares had dropped 4.25 per cent to $44.64 in a weak Australian market.

The Reserve Bank last week lifted its cash rate to the highest level in the decade in an effort to tamp down on inflation, which at 7.8 per cent is the highest since 1990.

The continuing rate hikes have put pressure on households and retail sales in Australia dropped 3.9 per cent in December, marking their first decline in 2022.

JB Hi-Fi’s January numbers contrast with record sales and earnings in the first half of 2022/23 when customers showed strong appetite for electronics and appliances.

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Overall sales in the six months to December 31 lifted 8.6 per cent to $5.28 billion as the retailer leveraged on Black Friday and Boxing Day promotional periods.

It resulted in earnings before interest and taxes for the half year jumping 14 per cent to $479.2 million, while net profit after tax was up 14.6 per cent from a year ago to $329.9 million.

Mr Smart attributed the result to a normalising of trading conditions after two years of Covid related disruptions and the group’s focus on providing the best value to customers.

For the half year, comparable sales were up 8.5 per cent at JB Hi-Fi Australia, 16.1 per cent higher at JB Hi-Fi New Zealand and up 7.3 per cent at The Good Guys.

The retailer declared a fully-franked interim dividend of $1.97 per share, up from 1.63 cents a year ago.

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