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    Unified Q1 Sales Keep Pace With Record-setting 2008 Momentum

    Although sales were slightly down, the wholesaler's fiscal Q1 numbers are tracking against its best year in company history.

    Regional wholesaler Unified Grocers sales for its fiscal first quarter of 2009 were just under those of last year -- yet still show a strong performance considering that 2008 was a record-setting year in which Unified established new all-time highs for year-end sales and earnings.

    "We are in possibly the most challenging business environment that any of us have experienced in our lifetimes," said Al Plamann, president and CEO of Unified. "Our industry is not immune from the effects of this severe recession. While I'm not surprised that our independent retailers have been able to hold their own in their marketplaces, I am pleased that the results are strong.

    "We are well aware that things can change drastically in a very short period of time," added Plamann. "Toward that end, we are working with our retail members and customers to ensure that they -- and we -- are doing everything that can be done to maintain and enhance the current and future success of our distribution network and marketplace partnership."

    Unified saw sales of $1.04 billion for its fiscal first quarter ended Dec. 27, 2008, compared with $1.05 billion last year. The wholesaler said it was able to maintain its sales volume near 2008 levels by increasing sales to the company's existing customer base (primarily in private label and specialty foods offerings), as well as through inflationary effects. This sales growth was offset during the period by the transition of a customer of the former Associated Grocers to another wholesaler as that customer emerged from bankruptcy.

    Operating income for the quarter was $19.8 million compared with $22.5 million last year. Operating performance was affected by investment declines tied to the equity markets but aided by inventory holding gains resulting from vendor price increases.

    Los Angeles-based Unified Grocers is a retailer-owned wholesale grocery distributor that supplies independent retailers throughout the western United States.

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