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Metro Boosts Q1 Earnings

MONTREAL — Metro Inc. on Wednesday said costs controls and timing of the Christmas holiday helped to boost earnings and sales in the fiscal first quarter.

For the period that ended Dec. 22, net earnings climbed 17% to $121.4 million on sales of $2.7 billion (U.S.). Sales rose 2.7%, and same-store sales improved 1.5%. Same-store sales benefitted by about 1% as the result of a shift of some Christmas holiday sales occurring in the first quarter, whereas the corresponding period a year ago fell in the second quarter, Metro said.

The results came amid virtually no food price inflation and in a highly promotional environment, particularly in Ontario, according to Eric LaFleche, Metro’s chief executive officer.

Read more: Metro to Sell Gas Foodservice Division

In a conference call discussing the results Wednesday, LaFeche reiterated earlier statements that the company was evaluating options for the proceeds of its sale of its stake in convenience-store operator Alimentation Couche-Tard, announced a week ago.

LeFleche told analysts that Metro is focused on efforts to improve basket sizes through an emphasis on improving its fresh offerings. He said the company would look to replicate the progress it has made in produce to other categories including meat, bakery and prepared foods.

“I think we’ve made great strides in our fresh produce department over the last year,” he said. “We have more to do in other fresh departments and we will be focused on that.”

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