Consumers spent A$55bn (US$28.9bn) on food, groceries and alcohol over the course of last year, according to figures released yesterday by the Australian Retailers Association.

Furthermore, the ARA revealed that 49% of the supermarket sector is controlled by two chains, Woolworths and Coles Myer, where consumers spent a total of A$16.77bn and A$14.4bn respectively.

Woolworths welcomed the figures, commenting that it was indicative of the fact that consumers were responding well to the firm's achievement of cutting costs by A$182m, and passing on to consumers savings of A$159m. The company also revealed yesterday that profits for the year had leapt nearly 18% to A$482m.

The ARA added that the figure of A$55bn actually accounts for 35% of all retail spending in Australia during 2000.