NORFOLK, Va. -- Farm Fresh here recorded a $3.7 million loss for the first quarter ended March 25, a 44.8% improvement over last year's $6.7 million loss.
Sales increased 6.2% to $208.2 million. Same-store sales rose 3.2%.
Despite positive comparable-store sales overall, same-store sales in the Richmond, Va., market were down 4.2% for the 12 weeks, according to a report by Steven Ruggiero, managing director of high-yield research at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Securities Corp., New York.
Last year, Farm Fresh was in the process of holding grand openings "with extreme promotional activity" at the 15 stores it had acquired from Safeway in Richmond the year before -- and the resulting strong sales performance made for a tough comparison this time around, Ruggiero said.
Farm Fresh expects to spend $10 million this year on replacement stores, remodels and new equipment. The company operates 56 combination stores and nine super warehouse units in Virginia and North Carolina. No 1995 store openings are planned; three stores are expected to close.
According to Ruggiero, increased competition will be a major factor for the company to deal with this year. Several major players, including Harris Teeter, Charlotte, N.C., and Hannaford Bros., Scarborough, Maine, are planning to move into the region.