Should investors ditch Woolworths and Coles?


There is a growing storm of controversy around Coles and Woolworths as they face intense scrutiny over price hikes and supplier pressures in a Senate inquiry.

This raises an interesting question as to whether investors should cut ties with these corporate giants or whether there is the prospect of finding a gem that is waiting to be unearthed.

Let me explain.


Australian households are grappling with the relentless surge in living costs through higher interest rates and the burden of inflated supermarket bills.

While this weighs heavily on the average family, there could be a silver lining for investors.

These escalated supermarket prices may translate into healthier profits and potentially signal a bright future for both Coles and Woolworths.

Flashback to August 2023 when Woolies and Coles announced profits of 4.6% and 4.8%, respectively, over the past year.

Those numbers might not make your jaw drop, but here's the kicker: both Coles and Woolies have seen their earnings increase year on year since 2020. All of this has occurred during a pandemic recovery and inflation storm.

You would think that with shoppers spending less, earnings would decrease, but the opposite has happened.

So, how did they pull it off? There can really only be two reasons: squeezing suppliers for lower costs while stacking the supermarket shelves with higher-margin products.

Interestingly, despite Woolworths' earnings uptick, its share price has taken a nosedive, with the stock down approximately 25% from its peak in August 2021. Worse, from a technical perspective there is no indication the downward trend will halt anytime soon.

However, here's the silver lining I was talking about. Woolworths' share price has a track record of bouncing back splendidly after corrections in the range of 20-30%.

So, if the company can keep the profit train rolling despite a sluggish economy, this stock has the potential to outperform over the longer term.

Coles' share price is also down about 20% from its peak in August 2022.

In contrast to Woolies, however, its share price has been rising since October 2023. If this trend can continue, I see the potential for the price to reach around $19 in the medium to long term, which provides a fantastic opportunity for savvy investors and traders.

What are the best and worst-performing sectors this week?

The best-performing sectors include Utilities, up just under 1% followed by Consumer Staples and Materials, which are both down slightly more than 1%.

The worst-performing sectors include Healthcare, down more than 3%, followed by Real Estate and Consumer Discretionary, as they are both down more than 2%.

The best-performing stocks in the ASX top 100 include Lynas Rare Earths and Bank of Queensland, which are both up more than 6%, followed by IDP Education, up more than 3%.

The worst-performing stocks include Domino's Pizza, down more than 7%, followed by James Hardie, down more than 6% and Block, down more than 5%.

What's next for the Australian stock market?

This week, the sellers have taken control, steering the market down by around 2%, making this week one of the most significant weekly drops of the year.

Regular readers will know that I have been anticipating a significant peak in the All-Ordinaries Index this month and that April would be volatile.

Initially, I expected the peak to occur closer to the end of the month, but it now seems like the peak might have arrived early.

If sellers keep up their commitment to driving prices down next week, we can expect a fall of 8-12% from the all-time high of 8168 points that occurred on April 2. This means that the All-Ordinaries Index could fall to 7500 or even 7200 points over the coming weeks.

While a market correction of more than 8% can be intimidating, it's important to remember that these corrections are very normal and occur frequently. Further, they offer some of the best opportunities for those who can buy good stocks at cheaper prices.

The market gives you these favourable situations each year, so it's essential that you prepare yourself to take advantage of them.

That said, I am not suggesting diving into stocks while the market is falling. I am asking you to stay vigilant and to keep watching the market and key stocks closely, so you're ready to pounce as soon as signs of a reversal appear.

Right now I still like the Energy, Materials and Utilities sectors, so start looking there for good stocks that will likely rise once the pullback has finished.

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Dale Gillham is chief investment analyst at Wealth Within Limited (AFSL 226347). He also serves as the head trainer at the Wealth Within Institute (RTO 21917). He has more than three decades of experience in the investment industry, and is the author of How to Beat the Managed Funds by 20%, Dale's qualifications include an Advanced Diploma and a Diploma of Share Trading and Investment. He co-hosts the Talking Wealth Podcast, and his work has appeared in The Australian Financial Review, New York Business Journal, Wall Street Select and more.
Kay Don
April 21, 2024 9.39am

Tks for your words Dale, being a Coles s/holder, I am semi reassured, although you are correct re squeezing the suppliers, we all feel for our farmers and this comment will obviously "get to" those of us who are sympathetic which may make some temporary impact. By and large we all have to eat, so even though these two giants C and W will have to tow the line, I think all will be well in the end. Here's hoping!