WINNIPEG, Manitoba — The North West Co. here said last week the acquisition of Cost-U-Less in mid-December, combined with strong sales growth in northern Canada, helped boost sales for the fourth quarter.
Sales jumped 21.1% to $313.4 million (U.S.), including a 19.4% increase in overall food sales, while earnings for the quarter, which ended Jan. 31, rose 15.7% to $18.6 million. For the year, sales rose 12.7% to $1.05 billion, with food sales up 11.9%, and net earnings up 27.4% to $62.1 million.
Cost-U-Less encompasses 12 midsize warehouse stores in Hawaii, the South Pacific and the Caribbean. North West primarily operates various food retailing formats under several different banners in Alaska and Canada.
During a conference call with analysts to discuss financial results, Edward S. Kennedy, president and chief executive officer of North West, said the opening of a Cost-U-Less on Grand Cayman Island was “phenomenal — and we feel good about opening a Cost-U-Less in Aruba, which will be a new market.”
Earlier this month, North West acquired Span Alaska Enterprises, a $19.5 million general-merchandise distribution company that serves retail and wholesale customers in Alaska.
Kennedy said Span is expected to complement the market position of Frontier Expeditors, which distributes food and general merchandise to independent grocery stores in rural Alaska. “Span has a direct-channel food business we want to learn more about,” he noted, “and also a foodservice business, which is an area we want to expand.”
North West also hopes to add a line of store brands to its offerings to the independent operators it services, Kennedy said, “and we may try to partner with another company to distribute their brand to our customers.”