US supermarket operator Winn-Dixie Stores has said it just about broke even in the third quarter of its fiscal 2004 year and said it plans to close or sell 156 stores and reduce its workforce by about 10%.

The company reported net earnings of US$0.6m, or 0 cents per share, for the third quarter to 31 March, compared to earnings of $50.6m, or 36 cents per share, in the year-ago period.

Sales fell 5.5% to $2.7bn, while identical-store sales, which include enlargements and exclude stores that opened or closed during the period, were down 6.4%.
“While sales continued to decline, this quarter’s break-even results are an improvement from last quarter, largely due to an increase in margins,” said Frank Lazaran, president and CEO. “We also made meaningful progress with our strategic initiatives, most notably the completion of our comprehensive review of Winn-Dixie’s markets to identify which are core and non-core to the company. We are making and implementing the tough decisions we believe are necessary to streamline the company and return it to consistent profitability.”

Following its review of its operations and core markets, Winn-Dixie said it will operate a streamlined core of 922 stores in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, and certain areas of North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Tennessee. The company will also continue to operate in the Bahamas. This means the company plans to sell or close 156 stores, and will therefore reduce its workforce by about 10%, or around 10,000 jobs.

The company also plans to exit three distribution centres, which are located in Raleigh (NC), Louisville (KY), and Sarasota (FL), within the next 12 months.

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Winn-Dixie said it has determined that its manufacturing operations are not fundamental to its core business of operating supermarkets and will immediately pursue the sale of its Dixie Packers, Crackin’ Good Bakery/Snacks, and Montgomery Pizza manufacturing operations. Additionally, the company will consolidate its Greenville Ice Cream and Miami Dairy operations into its other dairies.