Comps Flatten at Harris Teeter

MATTHEWS, N.C. — Comparable-store sales at Harris Teeter were down 0.14% in the recently ended fiscal fourth quarter, parent company Ruddick Corp. here said Thursday, but overall sales and operating profits at the chain improved.

MATTHEWS, N.C. — Comparable-store sales at Harris Teeter were down 0.14% in the recently ended fiscal fourth quarter, parent company Ruddick Corp. here said Thursday, but overall sales and operating profits at the chain improved.

The slight decline in comps for the 14-week period, which ended Oct. 3, was an improvement over 0.7% declines in the third quarter. The company attributed the negative comps to retail price deflation driven by promotional activity, as well as "changes in customer purchasing habits."

Fourth-quarter operating profit at the chain was up 12.9%, to $49.1 million, on a sales gain of 12.5%, to $1.11 billion, compared with year-ago results. About 7.8% of the sales gain was attributable to an extra week in the most recent quarter.

For the full fiscal year, operating profit at the supermarket chain was up 3.4%, to $181.6 million, on a 7.1% increase in sales, to $4.10 billion. About 2% of the full-year sales gain was attributable to the extra week in fiscal 2010, Ruddick said. Comps for the year were down 1.1%. The company added 10 net new stores during the year, ending with 199 locations.

Consolidated net income at Ruddick — including results from its American & Efird thread subsidiary — increased 30.3% to $112 million for the year, on a 7.9% increase in sales, to $4.4 billion.