Jacksonville, Florida-based Winn-Dixie Stores, one of the largest retail food chains in the US, has announced sales and results of operations for its Q3 of fiscal 2002, ended 3 April 2002.

Net earnings before extraordinary items for the quarter were US$46.6m, or US$0.33 per diluted share, compared to US$10.7m, or US$0.08 per diluted share, year on year. Year-to-date, net earnings before extraordinary items were US$111.1m, or US$0.79 per diluted share, compared to US$32.3m, or US$0.23 per diluted share.

The company incurred a US$3.8m loss on early extinguishment of debt in connection with the prepayment of US$150m of its outstanding six-year term loan. Net earnings after extraordinary items for the quarter were US$44.3m, or US$0.31 per diluted share as compared to US$10.7m, or US$0.08 per diluted share, for the same quarter last year. Year-to-date, net earnings after extraordinary items were US$108.8m, or US$0.77 per diluted share compared to US$32.3m, or US$0.23 per diluted share.

Q3 sales reached US$3bn, an increase of US$29.8m or 1% year on year. For the 40 weeks ended 3 April 2002, sales were US$10bn, an increase of US$49.8m or 0.5% compared with the prior year. Identical store sales, which include enlargements and exclude the sales from stores that opened or closed during the period, increased 0.1% for the Q3 and decreased 3.5% for the year. Comparable store sales, which include replacement stores, increased 0.2% for the Q3 and decreased 3.3% for the year.

In addition to new marketing efforts, the group said that sales were positively impacted by the conversion of 28 locations to the Save Rite Grocery Warehouse concept and the Easter holiday, which fell in the Q3 of fiscal 2002, compared to the Q4 of fiscal 2001. Easter bought an increase in sales for the Q3 as compared to the prior year of approximately 1%.

During the Q3, Winn-Dixie introduced a Customer Reward Card, part of a major initiative to focus on superior customer relationship marketing that reinforces a "real deal" branding initiative. The Customer Reward Card is currently in use in the Company's Florida area stores. Future expansion of the programme will be determined after the effectiveness of the programme is fully evaluated.

Al Rowland, president and CEO stated: "We are pleased to see identical store sales improve. Our customers seem to be responding positively to our store conditions and operations, as well as marketing efforts. We will continue to focus on the issues that we think are important to our customers in our effort to run the best supermarket in each neighbourhood." 

In the year to date, Winn-Dixie has opened four new stores averaging 48,500ft², closed seven stores averaging 35,300ft², and enlarged or remodelled 22 stores. There are currently 1,150 stores in operation, compared to 1,155 last year, of which 974 are larger than 35,000ft², with 789 being Marketplace stores.

There are two new stores presently under construction. By the end of this fiscal year, the company plans to have opened five new stores, and enlarged or remodelled 32 existing stores.