Inside This Issue - News
Supervalu encounters turbulence
January 24th, 2011
MINNEAPOLIS – Wall Street punished Supervalu Inc. after the grocery retailer and wholesaler produced another disappointing quarter and lowered its earnings outlook for the year.
The results were released days after the company jettisoned its chief merchant and reshuffled its top management ranks.
The grocer reported a net loss of $202 million, or 95 cents per diluted share, contrasted to net income of $109 million, or 51 cents per share, a year ago. Sales fell 6% to $8.67 billion as identical-store sales sagged 4.9%.
Management also lowered its guidance for fiscal 2011 to a loss between $7.09 and $7.19 per share and adjusted earnings between $1.25 and $1.35 per share. Its previous estimate had called for a loss of $5.74 to $5.94 per share and adjusted earnings of $1.40 to $1.60 per share.
Investors responded by driving Supervalu shares down 3.8% in the three days after results were announced. The stock has lost half of its value over the past 12 months and declined 21% in the first two weeks of this year.
In a conference call with analysts, president and chief executive officer Craig Herkert said that the decrease in identical-store sales was largely attributable to Supervalu’s three chains in the Northeast: Shaw’s Supermarkets, Acme Markets and Shoppers Food & Pharmacy. "These banners were generally in the negative high single digits," he said. "Shaw’s, Acme and Shoppers continue to see strong price competition in each of their markets."
Jewel Food Stores in Chicago also felt competitive pressure, particularly from discount stores, he added. Identical-store sales in all other banners improved almost 2 percentage points.
In addition to ongoing sales weakness in certain markets, investments in price and promotions reduced gross margin and in some cases failed to achieve their goal. "We executed some ineffective price promotions in categories such as carbonated beverages, soups and frozen foods which did not drive incremental traffic," Herkert said.
Just days before the release of its third quarter results, Supervalu announced that Janel Haugarth, who had been in charge of the company’s traditional wholesale business as executive vice president, president and chief operating officer of supply chain services, had been named executive VP of logistics and merchandising, replacing Steve Jungmann, who had been executive VP of merchandising. Jungmann had been named to the post by Herkert a year ago.
Herkert explained the change as a necessary step to consolidate leadership of its two merchandising organizations and achieve the lowest cost of goods from vendors. However, Supervalu’s Sav-A-Lot discount grocery chain remains outside of Haugarth’s expanded role.