LOS ANGELES — Unified Grocers  here said Wednesday sales and earnings increased during the first fiscal quarter, which ended Dec. 31, buoyed by the company's specialty-products division.
Net income rose 13.1% to $4.1 million, and sales were up 1.1% to $991.1 million. The company said the earnings increases were due to the strong performance of its Market Centre subsidiary, which distributes organic, ethnic and specialty items, and the results of its cost-containment efforts.
Unified said the sales increase was partially offset by store closures among its membership and by the loss of C&K Market , a 62-store operator based in Brookings, Ore., which switched to Supervalu  last spring.
According to Al Plamann , Unified chief executive officer, "The business environment is improving, albeit slowly. Sales during the quarter were up, although the results were somewhat mixed among retailers. Those with upscale formats, for example, experienced strong sales during the period as specialty and gourmet products were in great demand over the holidays.
"Overall, independent retailers throughout the Western U.S. performed well during the quarter because they were able to respond more quickly to changing consumer preferences than were the chains. Agility and adaptability are key components to success in this business environment."