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    Winn-Dixie's Q1 Net Loss Widens

    For the first quarter of its fiscal 2010, a 12-week period ending Sept. 16, Winn-Dixie Stores posted a net loss of $8.1 million, or 15 cents per diluted share, for the first quarter, including an impairment charge of $3.5 million, or six cents per diluted share related to six stores. In the year-ago period, Winn-Dixie reported a net loss of $2.3 million, or four cents per diluted share.

    For the first quarter of its fiscal 2010, a 12-week period ending Sept. 16, Winn-Dixie Stores posted a net loss of $8.1 million, or 15 cents per diluted share, for the first quarter, including an impairment charge of $3.5 million, or six cents per diluted share related to six stores. In the year-ago period, Winn-Dixie reported a net loss of $2.3 million, or four cents per diluted share.

    The Jacksonville, Fla.-based company posted net sales in of $1.6 billion, a decline of $34.4 million, or 2.0 percent, vs. the year-ago period. Winn-Dixie attributed the decrease to non-recurring storm-related sales and six store closures that occurred in fiscal 2009. Excluding those items, net sales fell by $6.3 million.

    Identical-store sales, which exclude stores that opened or closed during the quarter, were down 1.5 percent for the quarter compared to last year, and flat when adjusted for non-recurring storm-related sales in the prior year and the ongoing mix shift from branded pharmaceuticals to generics.

    “The economic climate continued to impede our growth during the quarter,” noted the Southeast grocer’s chairman, CEO and president, Peter Lynch. “However, we’re pleased that transaction count was flat in the current quarter, compared to the negative levels we experienced through most of the prior fiscal year. It is very encouraging that customers continue to shop at our stores to enjoy our fresh and local offerings even though the economy is limiting their grocery budgets.”

    Gross profit on sales in the first quarter came to $465.2 million, a drop of $1.5 million vs. last year. As a percentage of net sales, gross margin was 28.3 percent in the quarter, compared to 27.9 percent in year-ago period, an improvement Winn-Dixie said resulted from lower warehouse and transportation costs, and a lower LIFO charge, partially offset by higher inventory shrink.

    By the end of the quarter, the grocer had renovated 170 locations since its store remodel program started in 2007, 76 of which were still within their first year of operation. Of those 76 first-year store remodels, 57 are considered by Winn-Dixie to be offensive remodels, or locations facing direct competition in their markets but not new competitive openings during the current fiscal year. “The increase in identical-store sales at our first-year offensive remodels was driven primarily by increased customer transactions, which were up 7.1 percent compared to last year and clearly show that customers are responding by making more frequent trips to our stores,” observed Lynch. “However, our average customer basket size per transaction was flat compared to last year. The factors that have negatively impacted the overall basket size for the chain have also been experienced in our remodeled stores.”

    For the first quarter of fiscal 2009, Winn-Dixie’s private label penetration rate grew to 22.6 percent, a rise of about 20 basis points vs. the same period in the prior fiscal year. Since the advent of the program, the company has introduced packaging and label redesigns for over 3,300 private label items.

    In response to changes in the economic landscape, customer behavior shifts, and the expectation that a low level of food inflation will supersede the current level of food deflation, the company has lowered its guidance for fiscal 2010 to be in the range of $140 million to $160 million, from the previously reported $170 million to $180 million.

    “Although we are reducing our expectations for this fiscal year, we are confident that we have the right strategy in place to position us for sales growth over the long-term,” said Lynch.

    Winn-Dixie operates 515 retail grocery locations, including more than 400 in-store pharmacies, in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, and Mississippi.

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