MONTREAL — Eric La Fleche will take over as president and chief executive officer of Canadian retailer Metro Inc. on April 1, replacing Pierre Lessard, who is retiring, the company said. La Fleche has served as Metro’s executive vice president and chief operating officer since January of 2005 and has worked various positions at Metro since starting in its real estate department in 1991. Lessard has served as CEO of Metro since 1990, overseeing a period of growth marked by the acquisitions of the Steinberg, Loeb and A&P-Canada chains. In fourth-quarter earnings reported Wednesday, Metro said low inflation, price competition and disruptions related to transitioning acquired stores to a new technology platform contributed to a 27% drop in quarterly earnings. Sales of $2.47 billion (U.S.) fell 9% from the same period a year ago. Excluding an extra week in the year-ago period, tobacco sales and lost sales due to the sale of a grocery wholesale account, sales would have increased by 0.7%, Metro said. Same-store sales increased by 0.2% for the quarter. For the fiscal year, sales of $10.8 billion decreased from $11.1 billion in 2006, a 53-week fiscal year. Earnings of $281 million increased 9.3%.
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