Decent sales numbers fail to boost Clicks shares

23 January 2019 - 08:39 By Nick Hedley

The company says group retail sales grew 7.8% in the 20 weeks to January 13, a slowdown compared to a year before

The market has greeted relatively upbeat sales numbers from Clicks with a dose of scepticism.

The health-care product retailer said on Tuesday group retail sales in the 20 weeks to January 13 were up 7.8%, or 4.5% excluding net new stores, thanks in part to selling-price increases of 1.1%.

While sales growth has slowed — a year before, group retail sales rose 13% — other retailers have felt the pinch of SA’s economic malaise more acutely.

Following the trading update, shares in Clicks immediately leapt to R202.50, the best level in nearly five months, though the stock retreated to a close of R194.99, a 0.8% decline on the day.

Shares in rival group Dis-Chem Pharmacies fell 4% to R25, with most of the declines coming after Clicks’s update.

With other retailers reporting weaker sales numbers, “I think the market is starting to question at what margin is Clicks able to achieve these stellar results”, said Gryphon Asset Management portfolio manager Casparus Treurnicht.

More importantly, Treurnicht said, the stock was “very expensive” given its price-to-earnings ratio of 32.

“Posting anything below 15% growth in earnings would be a disappointment. It’s also impossible for a retailer to constantly set the base higher and grow on it when the macroeconomic foundation is not supportive.”

The company is expected to publish interim results for the six months to end-February on April 17.

Clicks, which is now headed by Vikesh Ramsunder after David Kneale retired as CEO at the end of 2018, said in its update that retail health and beauty sales increased 8.6% in the period thanks to “competitive pricing” and promotions.

“Our promotional strategy, centred around the brand’s well-known ‘3 for 2’ offers, together with our great everyday pricing, ensured that we maintained our sales momentum and sustained volume growth despite the increasing pressures on consumer disposable income,” Ramsunder said.

“The current pressure on consumer disposable income is unlikely to improve in the months ahead … however, our core health and beauty markets and business model are resilient, and we are confident in our ability to trade effectively through these difficult market conditions,” he said.

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