North West Sees Gains in Food

The North West Co. Fund expects its food business to continue to be healthy through 2009 as more people from full-price supermarkets move through our doors, Edward Kennedy, president and chief executive officer, told investors. The company operates nearly 200 stores under the Northern, Northmart, Giant Tiger and AC Value Centers in Alaska and Canada, and 12 Cost-U-Less stores

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — The North West Co. Fund here expects its food business to continue to be healthy through 2009 “as more people from full-price supermarkets move through our doors,” Edward Kennedy, president and chief executive officer, told investors.

The company operates nearly 200 stores under the Northern, Northmart, Giant Tiger and AC Value Centers in Alaska and Canada, and 12 Cost-U-Less stores in Hawaii, the South Pacific and the Caribbean. It plans to unveil a new banner — Island Fresh — in Guam later this year.

Kennedy said margins at Giant Tiger are improving. “We've been priced too aggressively, because of activity on the discount side of the marketplace in response to Loblaw's moves to lower pricing to counter Wal-Mart, but now that people are trading down from restaurants to Sobeys and from Sobeys to our stores, we are adding more store brands and also doing a better job on opportunity buys,” he noted.

“We also plan to grow the fresh side, and we're looking at a case-ready meat program to help us increase traffic.”

For the quarter, which ended Jan. 31, net income rose 2% to $15.6 million (U.S.) and sales rose 18.1% to $303.1 million. Same-store sales fell 2.8%, excluding the impact of currency exchange rates. Food sales for the quarter increased 21.9%.

Net income for the year increased 20% to $60.8 million, while sales climbed 30.8% to $1.1 billion.