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    Metro to Consolidate 5 Food Store Banners in Ontario Under One Name

    Metro, Inc. said yesterday that it will consolidate its five conventional food store banners in Ontario under the Metro name, starting next month. The rollout of Metro in the province will be backed by a CAN $200 million (US $190.1 million) investment in enhanced store facilities, food offerings, and marketing, resulting in Ontario's largest grocery banner, at 158 stores.

    Metro, Inc. said yesterday that it will consolidate its five conventional food store banners in Ontario under the Metro name, starting next month. The rollout of Metro in the province will be backed by a CAN $200 million (US $190.1 million) investment in enhanced store facilities, food offerings, and marketing, resulting in Ontario's largest grocery banner, at 158 stores.

    Over a 15-month period, all current Dominion, A&P, Loeb, The Barn, and Ultra banners will become Metro stores. The only banner not slated to switch is Food Basics, which competes in the discount food segment.

    "The decision to rebrand under the Metro name is part of a long-term strategy to capitalize on operational and marketing efficiencies by uniting the individual strengths of our existing banners in Ontario and sharing best practices with our Quebec and Ontario stores, explained Metro president and c.e.o. Eric La Flèche.

    In September all Dominion stores in Toronto will be converted, followed by the rollout of the Metro name across Ontario. All Dominion, Ultra and The Barn stores will switch to the Metro banner before the end of this year, Loeb stores will change over during the first half of 2009, and A&P stores will become Metro locations before the end of next year.

    Upon the completion of the banner consolidation program, the expanded Metro chain in Ontario and Quebec will consist of a national banner encompassing 376 food stores, including 218 in Quebec.

    Metro began planning the Ontario banner conversion after acquiring A&P Canada in 2005 by integrating its management information systems and strengthening its supply chain. The company is also introducing a new unified corporate and retail logo in keeping with its updated public image.

    News of the consolidation came in tandem with the release of Metro’s financial results for the third quarter ended July 5, 2008. Sales for the quarter were CAN $3,370.0 million (US $3,203.8 million) vs. CAN $3,341.0 million last year US $3,175,4 million), an increase of 0.9 percent. Excluding decreased sales of tobacco products, sales for the quarter went up 1.5 percent. Same-store sales increased 0.5 percent during the period.

    Sales for the first 40 weeks of 2008 came to CAN $8,249.2 million (US $7,841.6 million), up 0.5 percent vs. sales of CAN $8,212.2 million (US $7,805.1) for the year-ago period. Excluding decreased sales of tobacco products, sales rose by 1.0 percent.

    The 2008 third quarter net earnings were CAN $92.6 million (US $88.0 million), compared with CAN $89.3 million (US $84.9 million) for the year-ago period, a rise of 3.7 percent. Fully diluted net earnings per share grew by 6.5 percent to 82 cents, vs. 77 cents last year.

    Net earnings for the first 40 weeks of 2008 reached CAN $220.4 million (US $209.5 million), compared with CAN $219.0 million (US $208.2 million) last year, an increase of 0.6 percent. Excluding A&P Canada acquisition-related integration and rationalization costs of CAN $16.4 million (US $15.6 million) before taxes in 2007, in addition to income tax expense decreases of CAN $11.4 million (US $10.8 million) in 2008 and CAN $1.8 million in 2007 (US $1.7 million), adjusted net earnings for the 2008 40-week period were CAN $209.0 million (US $198.7 million), a decrease of 8.4 percent from CAN $228.2 million (US $216.9 million) for the corresponding period of 2007.

    "Successful resolution of the issues associated with our new information systems in Ontario and the good performance of our Québec operations contributed to our earnings growth," the company noted.

    Montreal-based Metro operates nearly 600 food stores under such names as Metro, Metro Plus, Super C, A&P, Dominion, Loeb, and Food Basics, in addition to 250 pharmacies under the Brunet, Clini Plus, The Pharmacy, and Drug Basics banners.

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