JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Winn-Dixie Stores president, James Kufeldt, declared an aggressive unit expansion and facility upgrade plan and announced a two-for-one stock split at the chain's annual meeting here last week.
The company also issued results for the first quarter ended Sept. 20, which showed strong sales and earnings increases.
"We are totally committed to continue with our low-price leadership and develop our company as a low-cost, full-service retail operation," he told shareholders.
"We will continue to upgrade our facilities [and] add those departments that our customers want, such as pharmacy, deli, bakery, salad bars, fruit bars, 60-minute photo processing, banks,
service meat, seafood and even dry cleaning.
"We can do this as we continue to move forward because your company remains financially strong with no long-term debt."
Kufeldt discussed several key initiatives for the company at the meeting, including:
Strong square-footage growth, including a 7.9% gain over the past year.
Further moves into the Chattanooga, Tenn., and Cincinnati markets.
Construction of two warehouses and enlargement of a third.
Kufeldt noted that fiscal 1995 was the first time since the mid-1980s that the company had ended the year with an increase in its total number of stores.
During the year, Winn-Dixie closed 92 stores, enlarged or remodeled 86 and added 108 to end the year with 1,176 stores compared to 1,155 stores last year. The company's square-footage gains over last year led to a total of 44.2 million square feet of retail space.
Still underway are 67 enlargements or remodels and 48 new stores under construction, including stores in the Chattanooga, Tenn., and Cincinnati markets.
Two stores opened in Chattanooga late last month, and Winn-Dixie plans to open two more and begin construction on three others within the next 60 days.
In addition, three stores are currently under construction in Cincinnati under the Thriftway Marketplace banner. Winn-Dixie acquired 25 Thriftway stores in the Cincinnati metro area earlier this year, as reported.
On the distribution side, expansion has already begun on a warehouse in Orlando, Fla. The structure will measure almost 1 million square feet when construction is completed.
Also, a new perishables warehouse is being built for the chain's Montgomery, Ala. division, and a new warehouse and distribution facility is planned for its Raleigh, N.C. division. Kufeldt gave no further details on these projects.
Winn-Dixie's strong balance sheet is enabling it to continually upgrade its facilities, according to analysts.
For the quarter, net earnings were up 14.8% to $45.9 million. Sales increased 11.5% to $2.9 billion. Average-store sales increased 11.2% and identical store-sales increased 5.6%.
"This is the best sales increase we have had in any quarter for many years," Kufeldt said. "Our new store, enlargement and remodeling programs are having a positive effect on our results."
Winn-Dixie's two-for-one stock split becomes effective Nov. 30 for shareholders of record as of Nov. 10. The split is a sign that the company expects to continue to perform strongly, analysts said. After the annual meeting Wednesday, Winn-Dixie's stock closed at 60 3/8, up 7/8 on the New York Stock Exchange.
At the meeting, the company declared a special monthly cash dividend increase of one cent to 15 cents per share, payable Nov. 1 and Dec. 1. It marked the chain's 52nd consecutive year of dividend increases, Kufeldt said. After the stock split, monthly dividend will be 7.5 cents per share, payable to shareholders of record as of Dec. 15.