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Mixed U.S. sales results for Ahold Delhaize in 4Q

Ahold comps dip slightly; Delhaize climbs on strong volume

Despite what the company called a solid holiday season particularly for Stop & Shop stores in New England, Ahold USA’s banners experienced a slight drop in comparable-store sales during the fourth quarter, parent Ahold Delhaize said Thursday.

Comparable store sales at Delhaize America’s Food Lion and Hannaford banners increased by 2.2% in the same period, the company added.

Both of Ahold Delhaize’s U.S. divisions faced food price deflation in the quarter, with Ahold USA experiencing 1.2% deflation as compared to the same period a year ago, and Ahold Delhaize seeing 1.7% deflation.

The figures were included in a trading statement issued ahead of full financial results, which the company will issue March 1.

Ahold USA divisions (Stop & Shop-New England and Stop & Shop-Metro New York; Giant-Carlisle and Giant-Landover) saw sales of about $6 billion U.S. for the quarter, a 0.7% increase on a pro forma basis, and adjusted for a 53rd week in 2015 and for constant currency rates. Delhaize America sales of $4.2 billion (U.S.) with the same adjustments increased by 2%.

Ahold has struggled to move the needle on the sales in the Northeast on competition from companies like Wakefern/ShopRite, BJ’s Wholesale and Demoulas Market Basket, industry consultant Burt P. Flickinger told SN in an interview this week.

Ahold USA increased its market share in all regions but for metro New York, which benefited in last year’s fourth quarter from A&P store closings. Hannaford and Food Lion “grew volumes significantly,” in the quarter, the company added, citing the October completion of Food Lion store renovations in the Charlotte, N.C. market, driving positive customer response especially in fresh.

Worldwide, Ahold Delhaize grew quarterly net sales by 2.8% to 15.1 billion euros (about $16.1 billion U.S.) on a pro forma basis, at constant exchange rates and adjusted for a 53rd week in 2015. For the full year 2016, pro forma net sales reached 62.3 billion euros, up 3.4% at constant exchange rates and adjusted for week 53 in 2015.  Online sales, which includes Peapod in the U.S. and e-commerce operations in Europe, grew by 15.3% in the quarter and by 19.4% for the year.

The company reiterated that it expected profits for the full year would be broadly in line with its performance in the first three quarters of the year.

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