HOMELAND SALES INCREASE BY 7.4% IN QUARTER

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Homeland Stores here said it struggled with low food-price inflation and more stringent food-stamp eligibility requirements in fiscal 1997 -- its first full year since its August 1996 reorganization.4.5 million in the 16-week fourth quarter of 1996. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization increased 8.8% to $8.1 million, compared with $7.4 million in the year-ago

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Homeland Stores here said it struggled with low food-price inflation and more stringent food-stamp eligibility requirements in fiscal 1997 -- its first full year since its August 1996 reorganization.

4.5 million in the 16-week fourth quarter of 1996. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization increased 8.8% to $8.1 million, compared with $7.4 million in the year-ago quarter.

Same-store sales increased 1.6% in the quarter. Excluding the extra week, they declined 4.5%.

For the 53-week fiscal year, sales were $528.0 million, compared with $527.8 million in the prior year, which had 52 weeks. Same-store sales dipped 3.2% for the year.

Earnings were affected by a charge of $14.5 million from its reorganization. Excluding the charge, net earnings would have been $3.9 million. Including the charge, Homeland had a net loss of $10.6 million in the year ($2.38 million of that in the fourth quarter).

Larry Kordisch, chief financial officer, said the chain has its sights set on paying off $45 million in reorganization charges over a three-year span at about $15 million per year. It is already a year and a half into that plan, Kordisch told SN.

"As we have moved into 1998, we have continued to focus on managing Homeland's costs in the face of the ongoing industry softness expected in the early months of the year," said David B. Clark, the company's new president and chief executive officer.

"During the year, we intend to invest nearly $13 million in our ongoing program to refurbish the company's stores and the expansion of at least two locations."