News Watch

SOBEYS' SALES HELP BOOST EMPIRE'S Q3 RESULTS STELLARTON, Nova Scotia Same-store sales gains of 2% at Sobeys supermarkets helped its parent company, Empire Cos., based here, lift third-quarter earnings 52% to $49 million, the company said last week. Sobeys' overall sales increased 8.4% to $3.5 billion for the quarter, which ended Feb. 2. The company said competitive pricing and square-footage increases,

SOBEYS' SALES HELP BOOST EMPIRE'S Q3 RESULTS

STELLARTON, Nova Scotia — Same-store sales gains of 2% at Sobeys supermarkets helped its parent company, Empire Cos., based here, lift third-quarter earnings 52% to $49 million, the company said last week. Sobeys' overall sales increased 8.4% to $3.5 billion for the quarter, which ended Feb. 2. The company said competitive pricing and square-footage increases, including the acquisition of Thrifty Foods, helped spark the sales increase.

GELSON'S PARENT CITES COMPETITIVE PRESSURES

LOS ANGELES — Arden Group, parent of the 18-unit Gelson's Markets chain here, said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that competitive pressures impacted the company's sales in 2007, offset to some degree by inflation. Net income for the 13-week fourth quarter, which ended Dec. 29, was down about 2.7%, to $7.36 million, on a sales decline of about 1%, to $126.3 million, compared with year-ago results. For the full year, net income rose 25.8%, to $29.2 million, on a sales increase of 0.7%, to $485.9 million. “Sales during 2007 were influenced by increased competition in our trade area from new competitors entering our market,” the company said in the SEC filing.

ITALIAN WHOLESALER PLANS U.S. DEBUT OF EATALY

NEW YORK — Coop Supermarkets, Italy's largest food distributor, has taken a 40% interest in the artisan food store Eataly, set to make its U.S. debut here later this year. Eataly, 60% controlled by founder Oscar Farinetti, is a sprawling food market located in a former factory in Turin, Italy. According to a press release from Coop, the store is set for a December opening in New York, backed in part by an investment of around $15.5 million from Coop. The wholesaler is making a similar investment to launch an Eataly location in Tokyo.

MINNESOTA WORKERS APPROVE NEW CONTRACT

St. PAUL, Minn. — Union workers serving retailers in the Twin Cities voted to approve a new three-year contract, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 789 here said. The deal covers 5,000 grocery and meat workers at Lunds/Byerly's, Kowalski's, Cub Foods, Jerry's Foods, Festival Foods and Rainbow. It includes health and welfare improvements, such as increased dental and orthodontics coverage, and an increase in life insurance benefits from $1,000 to $5,000 for part-time workers and from $12,000 to $20,000 for full-time employees, according to a summary of the contract published on the UFCW 789 website. The deal also introduces a “universal employee” job classification offering employers additional freedoms to transfer workers to various departments and stores.

NEW FOUR-YEAR PACT FOR SHAW'S EMPLOYEES

WESTPORT, Conn. — About 3,000 workers at Shaw's stores in Connecticut represented by Local 371 of the United Food and Commercials Workers union voted to approve a new four-year contract, the union said last week. The deal guarantees wage increases and a $500 bonus, published reports said. The union and Shaw's had negotiated through the expiration of their former contract before reaching an agreement.

AG NEW ENGLAND CREATES C-STORE DIVISION

PEMBROKE, N.H. — Associated Grocers of New England here said it has formed a new division focused on distribution to convenience stores. The division, called Associated Convenience Grocers, is headed by Steve Felton, division general manager. The cooperative wholesaler currently serves more than 150 convenience stores in the Northeast.