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SHEBOYGAN, WI, -- Fresh Brands, Inc. today reported record sales and earnings for the first quarter of 2003 ended April 19, 2003.
Net sales for the first quarter of 2003 were $187.7 million, a 1.9 percent increase over last year's first quarter sales of $184.1 million. Net earnings for the first quarter of 2003 were $1.93 million, an increase of 0.7 percent over net earnings of $1.91 million for the same period in 2002. Diluted earnings per share for the first quarter of 2003 were a record $0.38, a 5.6 percent increase over diluted earnings per share of $0.36 for the same period in 2002.
"Given the very difficult environment for our industry and the challenging economy, we are pleased to report improved results for the first quarter of 2003," said Elwood F. Winn, president and c.e.o. of Fresh Brands. "While consumer spending is tight and shoppers continue to trade down to value brands, we believe our performance is due to our successful business model, innovative merchandising initiatives and strong customer relationships developed through our loyalty marketing program."
Retail sales for the first quarter of 2003 improved 1.5 percent to $93.9 million, compared to $92.5 million for the same period in 2002. Net wholesale sales for the first quarter of 2003 increased 2.3 percent to $93.8 million, compared to $91.6 million for the same period last year.
"Our sales improvement was primarily due to the January 2003 opening of our new corporate store in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the February 2003 opening of a Piggly Wiggly franchise replacement store in Omro, Wis., and approximately $500,000 in sales as a temporary secondary wholesale supplier to a group of local supermarkets," Winn said.
Winn indicated that comparable store sales for the Piggly Wiggly franchise and corporate retail chain and Dick's Supermarkets increased 0.15 percent for the first quarter of 2003. "The relatively low increase in comparable store sales reflects fierce competition in some markets and the impact of the continued soft economy and increased unemployment on discretionary spending," Winn said. "We are encouraged by the fact that our marketing programs are generating positive results."
Winn stated that Fresh Brands continues to move forward with its expansion plans. "Our new Kenosha, Wisconsin, corporate store is our second corporate flagship store to receive the new 'Piggly Wiggly Fresh MarketCircle' designation that we are reserving for our new stores that feature our innovative circular store design. Our new corporate replacement store on the north side of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, scheduled to open this fall, will also be modeled on the flagship store," Winn added.
Over the next 12 months, the company expects additional openings including a new Dick's Supermarkets corporate store and fuel station/convenience store in Maquoketa, Iowa, Fresh Brand's first entry into the Iowa market, expanded and renovated franchise replacement stores in Mayville, Mosinee and Cross Plains, Wisconsin, and new franchise replacement stores in Juneau and Union Grove, Wisconsin.
"Looking ahead, based on our performance for the first quarter, we continue to expect that our earnings for 2003 will be in the range of $1.54 to $1.60 per share, barring any unusual or unforeseen occurrences in the economy, our markets or our businesses," Winn said.
Separately, Fresh Brands' board of directors declared a second quarter 2003 cash dividend of $0.09 per share of common stock. The dividend is payable on June 6, 2003 to shareholders of record on May 23, 2003.
During the first quarter of 2003, the company repurchased 106,000 shares of its common stock at an aggregate price of $1.7 million. At the end of the quarter, approximately $2.9 million remained available from the company's current Board-authorized $30 million share repurchase plan approved in July 2002.