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    Ahold USA Q3 Sales Edge Up

    Consumer confidence in economy still ‘fragile’

    For its third quarter, Ahold USA reported net sales of $5.9 billion, a 0.2 percent increase, while identical sales growth was 0.1 percent (0.6 percent excluding gasoline). The company’s stores maintained stable volumes and had low levels of inflation, according to the American arm of Amsterdam-based retail conglomerate Ahold.

    “In a promotional market, our U.S. operations gained market share,” Ahold USA said, admitting, however, that “consumer confidence in the economy remained fragile.” During the quarter, the company shuttered its six stores and three gas stations in New Hampshire, exiting the state. Underlying operating margin at Ahold USA was 4 percent, versus 4.1 percent in the year-ago period.

    In the company’s first three quarters, net sales were $20.1 billion, up 2 percent, and identical sales were up 0.9 percent (1 percent excluding gasoline). Underlying operating margin was 4.1 percent, compared with 4.2 percent last year.

    “In the United States, we continue to operate in a very competitive environment with low inflation,” noted Ahold CEO Dick Boer. “With limited sales growth we gained market share in the supermarket segment and maintained our share in the all-outlet market. We were able to maintain a solid underlying operating margin, supported by continuous cost savings.”

    Added Boer: “We remain committed to our ‘Reshaping Retail’ strategy and will continue to invest in growth, in both existing and new markets. Our online activities continue to show strong sales growth, both in food and nonfood, and we continue to rapidly expand our network of pickup points, especially in the United States.”

    Additionally, according to Boer, “Cost savings from our ‘Simplicity’ program allow us to continue to invest in our competitiveness in both the United States and the Netherlands.”

    Parent company Ahold posted overall sales for the third quarter of 7.4 billion euros (US $10 billion), up 0.6 percent at constant exchange rates. The company’s underlying operating margin was 4 percent, slightly lower than the year-ago period’s 4.1 percent, while operating income was 248 million euros (US $333.9 million), down 40 million euros (US $53.9 million), which the company attributed mainly to restructuring.

    Additionally, net income for the quarter was 165 million euros (US $222.2 million), up 24 million euros (US $32.3 million), and Ahold reported free cash flow of 181 million euros (US $243.7 million), a 22 million-euro (US $29.6-million) increase.

    Ahold USA consists of four regional divisions – Stop & Shop New England, Stop & Shop New York Metro, Giant-Landover and Giant-Carlisle – that collectively operate nearly 800 supermarkets with about 120,000 associates in 14 states and the District of Columbia, in addition to e-grocer Peapod.

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