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    Weis Ups the Ante on Cap Ex Purse for Next 12 Months

    Three-quarters of the grocer's expenditures will target the store base.

    Weis Markets Inc. will invest $80 million in growth over the next 12 months, a 23 percent increase over 2007 capital expenditures, said the 156-store chain's officials at the annual shareholders meeting yesterday.

    "For the coming year, we plan to invest nearly $80 million in our growth," said the company's vice chairman Jonathan Weis, adding that three quarters of the budget will be devoted to its store base. Last year, Sunbury, Pa.-based Weis Markets had a capital expenditure budget of $64.2 million.

    Weis said the chain currently has 19 major projects in various stages of planning: three new stores, two replacement units, nine additions, and five remodels.

    Norm Rich, Weis Markets' c.e.o., also told shareholders at the meeting that 2007 was a positive year in a market under duress. "At a time when our customers were increasingly affected by the high gas prices and a weakening economy...sales increased 3.3 percent to $2.3 billion in 2007 while our comparable sales increased 3.5 percent," said Rich.

    Noting that the company fell short of its earnings goals, Rich said that wholesale prices continue to increase more quickly than the retail prices paid by consumers.

    "Despite this pricing disparity, we maintained our retail prices at competitive levels," said Rich. "In this current market environment, we are cautious about passing on price increases to our customers. This gap between our wholesale and retail pricing contributed significantly to the decline in our gross profit rate."

    Weis Markets, which this May will mark its 96th year of continuous operation, currently operates 156 stores in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and West Virginia.

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