STELLARTON, Nova Scotia — Saying it was “very encouraged” with its first eight conversions, Sobeys  is planning to flip “dozens” more of its Price Chopper discount stores to the new Freshco format over the next 18 months.
Freshco debuted last month at eight former Price Chopper sites, which were closed briefly to facilitate conversion to the new brand. The stores maintain sharp pricing but emphasize fresh produce, local and international offerings set in a “controlled flow” format that leads shoppers through the entire store department by department.
“We stepped back and said, ‘Why does discount need to be such a compromise?’” Bill McEwan, chief executive officer of Sobeys, said Friday during a conference call discussing fourth-quarter and fiscal year results of Empire Cos., Sobeys corporate parent. “It’s a fresher, better, cleaner store that tailors to local markets.”
In financial results for the quarter ending May 1, Sobeys said sales improved 2.8% to $3.6 billion (U.S.) while same-store sales improved 0.5%. Sobeys said deflation ran about 2% during quarter — a little more than officials had anticipated. Gross margin as a percentage of sales was down slightly as Sobeys responded to competitive price pressure in a few markets. Quarterly net earnings for Sobeys of $58.8 million increased 2.3%
For the fiscal year, Sobeys said net earnings improved 15.2% to $248.8 million on a 3.2% sales gain to $14.6 billion.