LOS ANGELES — Unified Grocers here expects sales to remain “basically flat” for the year, Al Plamann, president and chief executive officer, told shareholders last week at the cooperative's annual meeting.
He said sales in the first quarter, which ended Jan. 2, were “soft, but improving.” Net income for the 13-week quarter fell 4.5% to $3.7 million, and sales declined 4.3% to $999.8 million.
Following the meeting, Unified elected Richard Goodspeed as its chairman — the first time in the history of Unified or its predecessor company, Certified Grocers of California, that a non-shareholder has been elected to the position.
He succeeds Richard Wright, president of Market of Choice, Portland, Ore.
Goodspeed, the principal at Godspeed & Associates here and a member of Unified's board since 2007, spent 45 years as a retailer before retiring in 1998, during which time he was president and CEO of Vons Cos. prior to its merger with Safeway, and president and chief operating officer of American Stores Co., parent of Lucky, where he worked for 37 years.
He also spent four years with A&P, including a year as president of its Family Mart operation.
Industry sources told SN Goodspeed's background “made him an attractive candidate to lead Unified's members through this business environment.”
Unified also boosted the size of its board by one, to 20 directors, and elected Mimi Song, president and CEO of Superior Markets here.
Looking back at the financial results, Unified said it attributed the sales decrease to the general economic conditions, including a shift in demand toward lower-cost items. In addition, the company noted that, because sales tend to slow down in the last week of the calendar year, the end of this year's first quarter on Jan. 2, compared with the year-end date of Dec. 27 for the year-ago quarter, resulted in a sales decline of $12.4 million for the quarter.
That drop was partially offset by additional sales of $8.7 million in Unified's specialty foods subsidiary, the company added.
“While net earnings were off slightly, our performance is right where we thought we would be at this point in time,” Plamann said. “If the economy continues to show signs of stabilizing throughout the year, we believe Unified and our independent retailers will perform well this year.”
He said some stabilizing factors are becoming more apparent. “While consumers continue to spend cautiously, our sales during the holiday season reflected an improvement over recent trends, and for the most part, our independent retailers are right in sync with this shift.”