CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Strategic store openings are chief on the fiscal 1999 to-do list of Ruddick Corp. here, which owns the Harris Teeter supermarket chain.
store openings in northern Virginia and Jacksonville, Fla., our sixth state."
In addition to a recently opened Jacksonville store, the company is building another in that area.
Meanwhile, the company said last week that new merchandising initiatives helped boost sales at its supermarket subsidiary during the first quarter ended Dec. 27. The company said Harris Teeter sales rose 7% to $566 million for the 13-week quarter, while comparable-store sales increased 1.2%. Operating profit for Harris Teeter was up 7.6% to $14.4 million, the company said.
Pointing out a 10.4% growth in sales to $2.1 billion for fiscal 1998 -- "despite the highly competitive environment for the supermarket industry in general," Dickson said in the annual report -- the company is counting on its supermarket division "continuing to enhance shareholder value by improving its bottom line while still maintaining the high levels of service, cleanliness, product variety and freshness for which we are so well known."
The company increased its number of stores from 138 to 144 during the past fiscal year and "a similar number of store openings" is planned for fiscal 1999.
Also looking ahead, Tad Dickson, Ruddick's president, said in the report "Acquisitions are always of interest to us and we evaluate each and every opportunity, whether from a buy or sell standpoint. In the case of Harris Teeter, we would obviously be most interested in a supermarket company with a similar format to ours and in a contiguous location. "Having said that, we would not rule anything out."
A self-distributing chain with a mix of freestanding and strip mall units, Harris Teeter supermarkets feature full-service fish and deli programs, in-store bakeries, banking and floral departments. A handful of units have in-store restaurants, video departments and extensive home-meal replacement programs. Tad Dickson said in the report that the company is planning to continue "experimenting" with its deli, bakery and food-service programs.
According to the parent company, Harris Teeter's sales increases resulted from merchandising initiatives and promotions, including ongoing acceptance of the chain's VIC loyalty card.