However, the CEO was positive when referring to yesterday’s trading statement, in which the retailer said it would need an immediate uplift in sales and margins to hit the lower end of its forecasts.
“We would be reasonably confident that will happen, but we can’t be slam dunk sure,” said Bish-Jones.
In yesterday’s release, Woolworths blamed its entertainment and seasonal Christmas lines for the warning – which the company said had fared less well than its toy offering. The retailer’s last two months of trading saw underlying sales for the 18 weeks up to last Saturday down 6.5 per cent.
Shares in the retailer dropped 7.5 per cent last night to 34p, while other entertainment groups suffered a knock-on effect. HMV went down seven pence to 164p, while WH Smith closed 4p down at 380p.
The warning meant that, if poor Christmas sales continued, Woolworths would be facing up to half the full-year profits it enjoyed in 2005.
Bish-Jones was quick to praise the success of Woolies’ attempt to take on Argos with its Big Red Book, however.
“We have been a victim of our own success with Big Red Book,” he said. “It has blown all our expectations away, but there is some cost in maintaining customer service.”