AMSTERDAM — Ahold here last week reported identical-store sales gains at its U.S. banners for the fourth quarter and fiscal year, as strong sales volumes overcame price deflation and sales promotions.
The identical-store sales growth exceeded analyst estimates as well as the sales performance of peers in the same period, indicating Ahold increased market share for the quarter, particularly in the Washington, D.C., market where the Giant-Landover division showed a 1.6% identical-store sales increase excluding gasoline, and in Pennsylvania, where Giant-Carlisle showed ID sales growth of 1%, excluding gas. Stop & Shop ID sales were down 0.4% excluding gas for the quarter, which ended Jan. 3.
“In all, Q4 trading seems better than expected,” Patrick Roquas, an analyst with Rabobank, Amsterdam, told SN. Roquas noted the results came amid price deflation of about 2%, consumer downtrading, heavy promotions and disappointing results from competitors. Montvale, N.J.-based A&P earlier this month revealed sharp sales declines for its third quarter, which ended in early December.
For the fiscal year, Ahold said sales at Stop & Shop and Giant-Landover increased 4.6% to $17.9 billion, with ID sales excluding gasoline increasing by 2.2% at Stop & Shop and 2.6% at Giant-Landover. Giant-Carlisle's overall sales increased 4.6% to $5 billion with 2.2% identical-store sales growth excluding gasoline.
Ahold is expected to release complete earnings figures for the period in early March. Roquas said he expected that volume growth would come partly at the expense of margins, but margins would resemble those reported during the third quarter.