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Stater Bros. reports flat Q1 sales

BY Allison Cerra

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. Regional supermarket chain Stater Bros. reported relatively flat first-quarter sales for fiscal 2010, the company announced Wednesday.

Supermarket sales dropped 1.11%, compared with the year-ago period, as same-store sales decreased 2.19% or $20.4 million for the thirteen weeks ended Dec. 27, 2009.

During the thirteen week first quarter ended Dec. 27, 2009, the company also completed the sale of substantially all of the assets of its dairy subsidiary to Dean Foods, and ceased all dairy manufacturing activity. The company recognized an after-tax gain of $4.7 million from the sale.

“Our economy continues to have a negative effect on the family budgets of our customers,” said Jack Brownm Stater Bros. chairman president CEO. “Our emphasis in these tough economic times is to retain customers by providing value so our customers 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.

“While our quarterly like-store sales declined over the previous year, our customer counts were up over the same time last year. We remain committed to cost control as we navigate through this national economic recovery,” Brown added.

Stater Bros. operates 167 supermarkets through its wholly owned subsidiary, Stater Bros. Markets.

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Wegmans, Costco top grocers in new survey

BY Allison Cerra

BOULDER, Colo. A new consumer survey conducted by Market Force Information found that Wegmans and Costco hold the No. 1 spot as grocery retailers in the United States.

Market Force polled 6,000 consumers last month in a survey designed to shed light on which grocers are preferred in the leading grocery categories. The survey noted that quality, not quantity, could be a shaping factor. Market Force said this conclusion was based on the fact that consumers are likely to vote for retailers most familiar to them, and drilled down into its results to determine which chain would win out when the number of store locations was taken into account. For example, while Kroger has almost 2,500 stores in North America and was voted one of the top grocers in the nation, Wegmans — which scored 3% of the total votes for favorite supermarket — only boasts 75 stores, positioning Wegmans above Kroger in the results.

“From high-quality produce to courteous staff, cleanliness to inviting atmosphere, Wegmans is a standout favorite grocer with consumers,” said Janet Eden-Harris, chief marketing officer for Market Force. “The fact that it can deliver all of these key performance attributes, and also rank highest on providing low prices, is an enormous accomplishment, and clearly earns the chain renowned customer loyalty.”

Meanwhile, when looking at such mass grocers as Walmart, Sam’s Club, Target and Costco, Market Force found similar results. While Walmart garnered the highest number of total votes, with fully 42% of the total, its store count also must be factored in. When re-indexed based on the number of stores, Costco took the lead. That lead is again substantiated based on the consumer ranking of mass grocers against the attributes they care about most. Costco scored highest on 12 of 16 attributes, and tied for first for the remaining four.

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Va.-based Ukrop’s stores change to Martin’s Food Markets banners

BY Alaric DeArment

RICHMOND, Va. This spring, a grocery chain familiar to residents of Virginia since 1937 will change faces.

Giant-Carlisle, part of Dutch supermarket operator Royal Ahold, announced Monday that it would make its planned changes this spring to the 25 Ukrop’s stores it purchased in the Richmond and Williamsburg, Va., areas, changing the stores to Martin’s Food Markets and rolling back business practices that analysts have blamed for costing Ukrop’s its top spot in the Richmond market. Ahold announced in December that it would acquire Ukrop’s for $140 million through its Giant-Carlisle division, which operates stores under the Giant and Martin’s banners in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Many analysts have said that Ukrop’s long-standing policy of closing on Sundays and not selling alcohol caused the family-owned chain to lose its top place in the Richmond market to Food Lion, owned by Belgium-based Delhaize Group. The rebranded Ukrop’s stores will sell beer and wine and remain open on Sundays.

Giant-Carlisle said the Ukrop family will continue to provide kitchen and bakery products to the stores. The stores include 19 pharmacies, which will continue to operate with their current pharmacists.

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