CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Ruddick Corp. here said last week competitive openings and store cannibalization affected comparable-store sales at Harris Teeter for the year and fourth quarter ended Oct. 3.
$55.4 million, while comps rose 0.9%.
Sales at Harris Teeter for the 14-week quarter increased 9.8% to $596.5 million and operating income was up 1.0% to $13.3 million, while comps were flat.
Katherine W. Kenny, vice president of investor relations for the parent company, told SN same-store sales comparisons were tough this year because of a 4.8% increase a year ago -- the result, she said, of the strong positive effect following last year's introduction of the chain's loyalty-card program, combined with heavy promotional and merchandising programs.
Kenny further said comps have also been affected by Harris Teeter's decision to cannibalize some of its existing stores with new stores, "which hurts comparisons but increases market share, which is what we look for." Another factor in the weak comparisons, she said, was a high number of competitive openings, "and sales didn't come in totally as we expected."
The company said the year-end results reflect the net effect of lost sales and non-recurring expenses related to the sale of 11 stores in western Virginia to Kroger in May and the acquisition at the same time of 10 stores in the Greensboro and Winston-Salem, N.C., area from Kroger. Harris Teeter reopened eight of those stores during July and August; the other two were in poor locations and will not reopen, Kenny told SN.
The company said it expanded its geographic reach during the year with its first two stores in Jacksonville, Fla. It opened its first store in the northern Virginia/Washington market last week, with plans for five more over the next two years, Kenny said.
Harris Teeter said it opened 16 new stores during the year, including the eight former Kroger stores, and closed 13, including the 11 sold to Kroger. At year's end, the company operated 147 stores, compared with 144 a year earlier.
Ruddick's financial results include sales and earnings from American & Efird, a manufacturer and distributor of industrial sewing thread.
Fiscal 1999 was a 53-week year, with a 14-week fourth quarter, compared with 52 weeks and 13 weeks, respectively, in the prior fiscal year.