Very occasionally, one number tells the story. In Woolworths’ case, it was the relentless rise in margins. Over the ten years to 2015, Woolworths allowed the operating margin in its Australian food, liquor and petrol business to expand from 4.1% to 7.4%.
Woolworths’ operating margin, which was more like 8% if petrol was excluded, became the highest of any grocery retailer in the world. Shareholders and analysts alike – yes, our hands are up – became enamoured of Woolworths’ success.