Harris Teeter has seen third-quarter profits hit by increased promotional activity, the US supermarket group’s parent company said yesterday (4 August).

Third-quarter operating profit at Harris Teeter totalled US$42.8m, compared to $44.5m in the comparable period of last year, Ruddick Corp. reported.

For the 39 weeks ended 28 June, operating profit was $132.1m, compared to $135.1m in the first nine months of last year.

The drop in operating profits was primarily due to additional promotional activity designed to “provide more value” to consumers, Ruddick said.

Sales were driven up by the retailer‘s focus on promotions, rising by 4.1% to $964.2m in the third quarter and by 4.7% to $2.84bn in the first nine months.

Harris Teeter’s continued emphasis on efficiency – alongside the increased sales – partially offset the costs associated with the group’s discounting initiatives.

Selling, general and administrative costs as a percentage of sales fell to 25.95% for the quarter, compared to 26.33% for the same period last year, the company said.

“We continue to experience changes in our customers’ spending habits and shopping demands during this time of economic uncertainty. Our customers continue to look for value and we remain focused on enhancing the overall value we deliver to our customers while maintaining or increasing our customer base. We continue to make investments in promotional activity, as well as price, to drive customer shopping visits and loyalty,” Thomas Dickson, Ruddick chairman, president and CEO, said.

Dickson said that customer loyalty records showed that these measures had enabled Harris Teeter to increase the number of “active households” by 1.77% per comparable store during the quarter.