Australia's largest supermarket Woolworths said it made a "good start" to the financial year today (21 October), posting a 9.6% increase in total first quarter sales helped by continued price re-investment.

Total sales for the 14 weeks to 5 October reached A$12.8bn (US$8.8bn), up from A$11.7m in the same period last year.

In particular, the retailers supermarket division increased sales 9.7% to A$11bn from A$10bn in the previous year, while Big W pushed sales 10.7% to A$1.04bn from A$936m in the comparable period.

Australian food and liquor sales were up 8.3% to A$8.3bn from A$7.6bn in 2007, while New Zealand supermarkets posted a 5.6% drop to A$1.01bn from A$1.07bn in 2008.

The company said that it had benefitted from key strategic initiatives focussed on its customers, including the accelerated rollout of its 2010c store format.

Michael Luscombe, managing director and CEO said: "This is a good start to the financial year. Particularly pleasing is the continued momentum in our Australian operations, with an overall improvement in comparable sales growth.

"We are mindful that discretionary spending continues to be influenced by macroeconomic factors and will be influenced by the recent events in global financial markets."

Luscombe maintained the company's outlook for the full year with sales expected to grow in the "upper single digits".