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    Winn-Dixie Reports Weak Third Quarter

    JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A late Easter contributed to declining third quarter sales and profits at Winn-Dixie Stores here, the company said yesterday.

    JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A late Easter contributed to declining third quarter sales and profits at Winn-Dixie Stores here, the company said yesterday.

    Sales for the 12-week period ended April 2 were $2.8 billion, a decrease of $79.3 million, or 2.7 percent. Same store sales for the period were down 2.0 percent, while net earnings from continuing operations were $50.6 million, or 36 cents a share, compared to $51.4 million, or 36 cents a share, for the same period in 2002.

    Last year Easter fell in the third quarter. This year's late Easter was responsible for about 1 percent of the sales decrease.

    "Given the difficult challenges that our economy and the industry face, we are encouraged with our ability to maintain profitability at 1.8 percent of sales this quarter," said Al Rowland, Winn-Dixie's president and CEO.

    "The timing of Easter as well as economic uncertainty and aggressive pricing and promotion by our competitors impacted the results of the quarter. Although we did invest in some strategic price reductions in the quarter, we maintained our targeted gross margin level through improved scheduling of our store associates while continuing to provide service to our customers. Our focus will continue to be on balancing profitability and top line growth," he said.

    As of April 2, Winn-Dixie operated 1,070 stores in 12 states and the Bahamas. The company opened seven new large stores during the quarter and closed 10 smaller units. It has eight stores under construction.

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