US regional retailer Spartan Stores today (1 August) reported pressure on first-quarter profits, citing “challenging” trading conditions.

Spartan posted net earnings of US$6m for the 12 weeks to 23 June, matching the result in last year’s first quarter. Operating income was down 16.3% at $11.7m.

First-quarter gross margin decreased 60 basis points thanks to lower margins in Spartan’s retail and distribution segments, the launch of a new promotional campaign and “market conditions” in some fresh departments.

Net sales inched up 0.2% to $603.9m. Comparable-store sales, excluding fuel, increased 0.1%, although Spartan said that was “significant improvement in the run-rate”.

However, it forecast a 1-1.5% in second-quarter comparable-store sales and earnings per share “below” last year’s results.

“For fiscal 2013, the company expects flat comparable store sales and anticipates that earnings per diluted share from continuing operations for fiscal year 2013 will approximate fiscal year 2012, excluding the 53rd week last year,” Spartan added.