US grocery operator Harris Teeter posted record operating profit for the 2010 fiscal year of US$181.6m, up 3.4% on the previous year.

The Ruddick Corp. subsidiary said on Thursday (4 November) that operating profit was driven by increased sales and a "continued emphasis on operational efficiencies and cost controls".

Sales for the year ended 3 October increased 7.1% to US$4.1bn, due to sales from incremental new stores and the extra week of operations in fiscal 2010.

However, comparable sales fell 1.1% for the year, which it attributed to promotions leading to falling food prices and changes in consumer habits.

The company now plans to open eight new stores during 2011. It said the decrease in planned new store openings between fiscal 2010 and 2011 reflects the company's efforts to delay new store openings during "these challenging economic times".

Harris Teeter said it has increased planned capital investment in its existing store base as part of its remodel and expansion plans. It plans to invest approximately $165m during the 2011 financial year.

Thomas Dickson, chairman, president and CEO of Ruddick Corp., said: "Harris Teeter's fiscal 2010 operating profit of $181.6m is the highest operating profit in our history. This accomplishment was realised during a period of heightened competitive activity and economic uncertainty that has led to unprecedented low levels of consumer confidence. During fiscal 2010, we drove customer shopping visits and loyalty through investments in our lower everyday prices and promotional activity."

Click here for Ruddick Corp.'s full earnings statement.