CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Harris Teeter is feeling the chill of the slowing economy. Shoppers made fewer discretionary purchases and traded down to lower-priced store-brand items, leading to a 2.1% decline in comparable-store sales during the fiscal first quarter that ended Dec. 28, the retailer said yesterday.
“We, like everyone else, are facing unprecedented economic uncertainty, tumultuous market conditions, and a decreasing level of consumer confidence resulting in reduced consumer spending,” Thomas W. Dickson, president and chief executive officer of Ruddick Corp., the parent company of Harris Teeter, said in a statement.
The company said it would reduce its planned capital spending by 12% to $212 million this year and by 29% to $150 million in fiscal 2010. Consolidated net earnings at Ruddick declined 1.7% to $22.9 million on sales of $955 million, a 1.7% increase. An operating loss at American & Efird, Ruddick’s textile business, drove the decline in net earnings, the company said.
Harris Teeter showed an operating profit gain of 0.2% during the quarter, to $44.3 million, on a sales increase of 3.6%, to $928.9 million. Dickson said the company is reducing expenses to offset investments in promotional activity to drive sales, adding that such efforts have improved comps in the first weeks of the current quarter.
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