MINNEAPOLIS — Supervalu here said yesterday that shoppers seem to be seeking out more promotions, buying more store brands and using more coupons as a result of the soft economy and rising food prices. In a conference call with analysts discussing its fourth-quarter earnings, Jeff Noddle, Supervalu’s chairman and chief executive officer, also said food retailers have been more aggressively promotional in the current environment but have continued to pass cost increases along to consumers in the form of higher retail prices. “We don’t see anybody really using inflation or not passing through inflation as a competitive strategic marketing tool,” he said. “It’s been pretty orderly.” Supervalu also said it would begin rolling out its new “Simply Good Meals” meal-solution program, located in the deli department, which consists of a self-service island with “restaurant-quality, easy-to-assemble meals.” For the fourth quarter, which ended Feb. 23, Supervalu reported $156 million in net income, up 30% over year-ago results, on a slight sales gain, to $10.4 billion. For the full year — the first full year to include a full 52 weeks of Albertsons results — net income was up 31.2%, to $593 million, on a 17.8% gain in sales, to about $44 billion. Retail sales for the fourth quarter were down slightly, to $8.1 billion, primarily due to store closures. Identical-store sales were flat.
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