Tough times impact Stater Bros.' Q1

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — Customers facing economic challenges caused a decline in Stater Bros.' first-quarter sales, the Southern California supermarket chain said Wednesday.

For the quarter ended Dec. 26, Stater Bros. experienced a 2.3% decline in supermarket sales, as did same-store sales — which dropped to $21.3 million — for the period. The chain said that its customers "continue to face tough economic challenges as our economy continues to have a negative effect on their family budgets."

Net income for the quarter dropped 80% to $1.3 million, compared with first quarter 2010. Stater Bros. noted that the net income of first quarter 2010 included an after-tax gain of $4.7 million from the company's dairy asset sale.

On the upside, the company did report that its overall debt load was reduced, which in turn will reduce the company's interest expense.

Commenting on the results, Stater Bros. chairman, president and CEO, Jack Brown, said that the company's emphasis "is to retain customers by providing value, so [they can] get the most out of their shopping dollars, while providing them with a friendly and satisfying experience on each and every one of their visits to our supermarkets."

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