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Ahold reports positive Q4

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK — Supermarket giant Royal Ahold, which operates under five banners in the United States, reported that U.S. customers’ continued focus on value drove its sales.

Fourth-quarter same-store sales for the company’s U.S. sector, excluding gasoline, rose 0.9%. Additionally, total-year net sales for Ahold USA jumped 3.1% to $23.5 billion. Net sales decreased 2% before adjustment for the impact of an additional week in 2009, the company said. In 2010, the conglomerate acquired Ukrop’s, a Virginia supermarket chain, for $140 million through its Ahold’s Giant-Carlisle division. The acquisition lead Ahold to realize $5.6 billion in net sales for the fourth quarter, a 6% increase when compared with the adjusted fourth-quarter 2009 sales.

For the 52-week period, ended Jan. 2, net sales totaled $23.5 billion, a 5.1% increase, compared with the adjusted full-year sales in the year-ago period. Sales from Ukrop’s stores totaled $458 million.

Commenting on its financial earnings, Royal Ahold said, "We delivered strong sales performance in all of our markets. The environment remained challenging, and customers continued to focus on value, driving intense promotional activity, particularly in the United States."

Royal Ahold operates under Stop & Shop, Giant Food, Giant Carlisle, Martin’s and Peapod banners.

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Delhaize moves ahead with New Game Plan

BY Allison Cerra

SALISBURY, N.C. — Delhaize Group on Thursday said that while its U.S. revenues dropped 1% to $18.8 billion, the retail conglomerate hopes to keep its business afloat by going forward with its New Game Plan.

Ending the quarter with more than 1,600 supermarkets in the United States — which included the opening of 40 stores and remodeling or expansion of 31 stores in the Richmond, Va., and Greenville, N.C., markets — Delhaize said it is increasing its store openings by investing $1.2 billion in 2011, including 120 to 130 store openings and approximately 120 store remodels. The expansion mainly will effect its Bottom Dollar Food banner, although Delhaize also disclosed remodel plans for three Food Lion stores.

Delhaize said it also was forging ahead with such sales-building initiatives as price investments, private-brand innovation and assortment optimization.

Delhaize’s Pierre-Olivier Beckers said during 2010 that its U.S.-based banners, namely Food Lion, "made important price investments as part of the New Game Plan," adding that Delhaize’s continued "commitment to price investments" kept its U.S. retail inflation "largely below" national inflation.

In addition to its $18.8 billion in revenue, comparable-store sales for the fourth quarter improved from -1.8% in the third quarter to -0.8%.

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Many Americans believe private-label products are high quality

BY Allison Cerra

CHICAGO — It seems that private-label brands are getting a sterling reputation among shoppers.

According to new research by Mintel, consumers have taken notice of private-label companies’ "better-for-you" products and attractive packaging, as 44% of grocery shoppers believed store-brand products are of better quality today than they were five years ago. What’s more, 39% of respondents said they would recommend purchasing a store-brand product.

More than two-thirds of shoppers surveyed (62%) also affirmed that they weren’t skimming on flavor or prestige by purchasing private-label products.

"Private-label brands are overcoming the stigma once associated with ‘generic’ products," said Fiona O’Donnell, senior analyst at Mintel. "Even though the recession has ended, and consumers may be in a better position financially to return to name brands, it’s likely that many will continue to buy store-brand staples that are of equal quality."

Mintel’s latest survey builds on several retailers’ emphasis on store-brand penetration in recent years, including such companies as CVS/pharmacy, Save-A-Lot and more. According to recent research by the Private Label Manufacturers of America, shoppers can save up to 30% on their grocery bills.

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