Wholesale grocery distributor Unified Western Grocers Inc has announced improved earnings for the second quarter ended 2 April 2005.

The Los Angeles-based cooperative achieved net earnings of $2.1m, compared with $1.22m in the same period a year ago. Earnings before patronage dividends and income taxes were $7.6m compared to $7.7m for the 2004 period.  Sales were down at $696m, compared with $739m in the year earlier period, during which the company experienced higher sales due to a strike/lockout at three major retail grocery chains in Southern California. 

Excluding the effects of the strike/lockout, company sales increased $11.3 million or 1.5% over the 2004 period, it said.  The company's continuing strong performance reflects improvements in gross margin and the results of continued efforts at controlling costs.

The results through 26 weeks showed earnings before estimated patronage dividends and income taxes of $21.2m, compared with $15.9m in the prior year.  Net earnings year-to-date totalled $6.0m versus $3.2m.

"We are pleased with our results for the second quarter," said Al Plamann, president and chief executive officer.  "In a very competitive environment - particularly in Southern California - our core business experienced a sales increase of 1.5% over the 2004 period.  That's very encouraging because it shows that our independent retailers are holding their own against some very aggressive competition."

"Our earnings also continue to remain strong, thanks largely to investments that we have made in our infrastructure and continual focus on cost reductions," said Plamann.  "With the implementation of new technologies and several process enhancements, we continue to see dramatic improvements in our entire distribution system."