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    Ahold Sales Flat in Q1

    Company invests in fresh merchandising, customer satisfaction

    Ahold's performance in the first quarter of 2014 remained relatively flat compared with last year, which the company attributed to low inflation and volumes and "competitive pressure" in New England.

    Net sales in the U.S. for the first quarter were down 0.3 percent, to $5.86 billion, from last year, and identical-sales growth inched up 0.1 percent, which included the positive impact of the post-Easter week falling in Q2.

    Ahold's underlying operating income was down 4.9 percent to $227 million; the company's underlying operating margin of 3.9 percent was 0.2 percent lower than last year.

    "Our outlook for the next quarter reflects similar trading conditions to the first quarter as well as investments in our customer proposition and future growth," said Dick Boer, CEO of Netherlands-based Ahold.

    'Fresh Investments'

    Ahold also has rolled out a program focused on enhancing its fresh offerings and customer experience through better service and targeted price reductions, the company said. The program was piloted in the second half of 2013, and was active in 190 stores by the end of Q1. The program is expected to be implemented in more than 50 percent of stores by year's end, funded by the expected $250 million “Simplicity” program of cost savings in the U.S.

    "We continue to focus on improvements and additions to our assortment to further strengthen our commercial position," Boer added.

    In the United States, Ahold operates four retail divisions: Giant-Carlisle, Giant-Landover, Stop & Shop New England, and Stop & Shop New York Metro. 

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