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Weis Markets eyes more store upgrades in 2019

Further investment in e-commerce also on tap

Weis Markets is boosting capital expenditures this year to fuel store remodels, supply chain improvements and information technology upgrades, as well as continued online grocery expansion.

At its annual shareholders meeting, the Sunbury, Pa.-based grocer announced capital spending of $109 million for 2019, up from $101 million last year. Among the planned retail investments are a new store in Bedminster, Pa., 14 store renovations and the addition of six fuel centers.

During 2018, Weis Markets opened two new stores, closed five stores and completed expansions/remodels of three locations, finishing the year with 202 supermarkets in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, West Virginia and Virginia. The supermarket chain now operates 200 stores, following the closure of two locations in January.

“As part of our company’s commitment to long-term growth, we will invest roughly $109 million in our store base and support areas,” Chairman and CEO Jonathan Weis told shareholders at the April 25 meeting in Sunbury.

Weis noted that sales for fiscal 2018, ended Dec. 29, reached a record $3.51 billion, which was up 1.2% year over year, while same-store sales have risen in 18 of the past 19 quarters. Comparable-store sales gained 0.9% in the fourth quarter and were up 0.7% for the full year. He added that operating income also climbed 9.4% in 2018, totaling $83.6 million.

The gains reflect the retailer’s store base and IT improvements, according to Weis. Meanwhile, sales and operating income benefited from targeted holiday promotions through the chain’s loyalty marketing program, price optimization and more efficient inventory management at the store level, he said.

Online grocery expansion also has been a growth driver, particularly the expansion of the Weis 2 Go curbside pickup, Weis told shareholders. Almost two-thirds of the grocer’s stores now provide pickup service, and nearly 90% of locations offer delivery.

“Our e-commerce investments helped generate a 33.2% increase in our online sales,” Weis said. “Today, we offer online ordering with curbside pickup in 125 stores, while 174 of our stores offer home delivery via Shipt, a leading online delivery service. Online ordering is a growing segment of our business that we expect to grow exponentially in the coming years.”

Weis added that this year the company is marking the 10th anniversary of its sustainability program, aimed at minimizing the retailer’s impact on the environment. For example, in September, the Weis Market in Randolph, N.J., became the chain’s first location to use an innovative CO2 refrigerant system, eliminating annual carbon emissions by an estimated 673 tons.

“Over the past 10 years, our team has made considerable progress with our sustainability program, far exceeding our initial expectations,” Weis said. “In 2015, we met our 2020 goal of reducing our total carbon emissions by 20% compared to 2008, five years ahead of schedule. We look forward to building on our progress in the years ahead.”

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