CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ruddick Corp. here yesterday said operating profit at its Harris Teeter chain was up 5.2% in the company’s fiscal fourth quarter, driven by increased sales from new stores and comparable-store sales growth of 2.16%. The company posted operating profit of $42.6 million for the 13-week quarter, which ended Sept. 28, on a sales gain of 10.2%, to $948.8 million. Operating income as a percentage of sales declined 22 basis points, however, to 4.49%. For the year, the chain posted $177.8 million in operating profit, up 15.4% from the preceding year, while sales grew 11.1%, to $3.66 billion.
Thomas Dickson, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Ruddick, sounded a cautious note in the earnings release: “As consumer confidence has fallen in recent weeks and customers continue to change their shopping habits, the coming months will continue to present challenges in regard to the trend of our same-store sales,” he said. “We continue to refine our merchandising strategies to respond to the changing environment and remain focused on our new store expansion and remodeling programs.”
Harris Teeter opened 15 new stores during fiscal 2008, ending with 176 locations. Ruddick said it plans to continue expanding the banner in the Washington, D.C., area in 2009, and projected capital expenditures of about $241 million for the chain. Ruddick, which also operates the American & Efird thread concern, posted net income of $96.8 million for fiscal 2008, an increase of 19.9%, on sales of $3.99 billion, up 9.7% over year-ago levels.
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