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Publix sales, comps drop in Q1

Easter shift, cannibalization trigger first comp slip since Q4 2009

Publix Super Markets on Monday said its comparable-store sales declined by 2.1% in the fiscal first quarter – marking the retailer’s first quarterly sales decline in seven years.

The Lakeland, Fla.-based retailer said comps were negatively impacted by a shift of the Easter holiday from the first quarter last year to the second quarter this year, but also by the effects of its newly built stores on existing ones, the company said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Publix is in the midst of an aggressive store-opening campaign as it establishes a presence in North Carolina and Virginia. Those areas have seen competition stiffen as retailers prepare for new competition from Lidl.

Publix last reported negative comps in the fourth quarter of 2009, when it was fighting effects of the recession.

The results could be a signal of what to expect for Kroger, whose sales often correlate with Publix sales over a similar period, analyst Shane Higgins of Duetsche Bank said in a research note.

Publix’ sales for the quarter totaled $8.7 billion, a 0.4% percent decrease from the same period last year. Net earnings were $555.3 million, which decreased by 4.6%.

Effective May 1, Publix’s stock price decreased from $40.90 per share to $39.15 per share. Publix stock is not publicly traded and is made available for sale only to current Publix associates and members of its board of directors.

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