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Lingering fickle consumer purchasing behavior, coupled with deflationary pressures and an aggressive pricing and promotional strategy, significantly affected Supervalu’s second-quarter sales and margins, with a 42 percent plunge in profits that dropped to $74 million, or 35 cents a share, from $128 million, or 60 cents, a year earlier.
Quarterly sales in the period ended Sept. 12 also declined to $9.46 billion from $10.2 billion in the year-ago period, while same-store sales slid 5 percent, marking the sixth straight quarter of downward comps.
Craig Herkert, Supervalu’s CEO and president, said that while earnings for the Minneapolis-based retailer/distributor were lower than the prior year, they were “generally in line with our expectations, and slightly better than analysts’ consensus of 33 cents per share.” Despite pricing and promotional investments that put pressure margins, Herkert said a silver lining could be found in a reduction of Supervalu’s total debt by $340 million since year-end. “As we move into the last half of the year, we will place intense focus on in-store execution and merchandising programs. I am confident that our strategy to provide shoppers with enhanced value, and other changes we are now making, will allow us to compete more effectively.”
As his vision of Supervalu as “‘America’s Neighborhood Grocer’ unfolds,” Herkert said he’s hopeful about the long-term prospects for the company. “Our 4,300-store network is uniquely positioned to serve the diverse needs of neighborhoods across America and provides an outstanding platform from which we can grow.”
Other highlights of Supervalu’s second-quarter performance were a 7 percent decrease in retail food sales of $7.4 billion, vs. $8 billion last year. primarily as a result of the -5 percent same-store sales dip and previously announced store closures.
The company also rang up $2 billion in second-quarter supply chain services net sales vs. $2.3 billion last year, a decrease of 9.5 percent, mainly reflecting the ongoing transition of Target Corp. volume to self-distribution. Meanwhile, Supervalu also posted $2 billion in gross profits, or 22.1 percent of net sales, compared to $2.3 billion or 22.4 percent last year, a decrease that the company said was mostly due to the impact of a higher promotional sales mix and increased investments in price, partially offset by lower LIFO expense.
Selling and administrative expenses in the second quarter were $1.8 billion, or 19.5 percent of net sales, vs. $1.9 billion, or 19.0 percent last year, an increase that primarily reflects reduced sales leverage that more than offset the savings.
Looking ahead, the grocer now expects full-year earnings in the range of $2.01 to $2.11 a share vs. a prior forecast of $2.01 to $2.21 a share, along with an anticipated 4 percent decline in same-store sales, excluding fuel.