HARRIS TEETER PROFITS JUMP ON SALES GAIN

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Ruddick Corp. here said its Harris Teeter supermarket chain posted a 12.9% gain in operating profits in the first quarter ended Jan. 2, compared with the first quarter of the previous year.million. During the quarter, operating profits totaled 4.45% of sales, vs. 4.13% of sales in the year-ago first quarter. The company said it was able to offset increased medical and benefit costs

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Ruddick Corp. here said its Harris Teeter supermarket chain posted a 12.9% gain in operating profits in the first quarter ended Jan. 2, compared with the first quarter of the previous year.

million. During the quarter, operating profits totaled 4.45% of sales, vs. 4.13% of sales in the year-ago first quarter. The company said it was able to offset increased medical and benefit costs and the expenses associated with store closures through cost cutting in other areas.

Harris Teeter, which operates 137 stores in the Mid-Atlantic region, closed one store and remodeled five. It expects to open 10 new stores and remodel 11 during the rest of the fiscal year.

The company said it "remains conservative in its expectations for the remainder of fiscal 2005 due to the intense competition in the retail grocery segment" and the difficult operating environment in the other portion of its business, a thread-manufacturing concern that the company is seeking to grow internationally. "Further operating improvement will be dependent on the company's ability to offset rising health care and benefit costs with additional operating efficiencies and to effectively execute its global expansion plans," Ruddick said in a prepared statement.