It was a comparatively tough second half -- literally.
ity or debt improved over a year ago -- climbing an average of 2.5% for the second half of the calendar year -- while operating profits for the group dived 53.2% from the second half of 2002, according to published reports and SN research.
Looking at comparable-store sales was an iffy proposition, however, because of the impact of the strike-lockout in Southern California on several chains' results.
When strike results are included in the third-quarter comp numbers for Kroger, Safeway, Albertsons and Whole Foods, comp sales for the 10 chains averaged 0.7%, down from an average of 1.5% in the second half of 2002; when the declines from the strike-lockout at Kroger, Safeway and Albertsons and the gains at Whole Foods are excluded, the average rose to 0.95%.
Looking at fourth-quarter results including the impact of the labor dispute, comp sales were up an average of 6.4% with the extraordinary 49% jump at Stater Bros. Markets included and 1.7% when Stater's comp gains are excluded, compared with an average gain of 0.5% in 2002's fourth quarter; when strike results are excluded from the comparisons, comp sales for the fourth quarter averaged 1.8%, compared with the fourth-quarter gain of 0.5% in 2002.