As a practical matter, summer is considered over on Labor Day in many regions of the country, but summer's end actually came this past weekend. Regardless of which way you like to measure seasons, now isn't a bad time to take a moment to look at how summer went.
As measured by the number of hurricanes prowling the oceans, the season was the fiercest one in memory. (By the way, for news on storm damage, see Page 61.)
But since we can't do much about the frequency or magnitude of storms, let's take measure of the season in terms of how hot or cold summer food sales blew.
Evidently, this past summer was quite a good one for many industry players. Looking through a stack of back issues of Supermarket News, it's encouraging to be able to see one favorable financial report after another relating to at least much of the summer period. Some of the quarterly financials that lit up headlines went like these: Spartan Stores' sales and earnings increase; Albertson's registers record sales and profits; American's net rises; Publix' profit and volume up; Fred Meyer's sales rise; Giant Food sees earnings and sales increase; Pathmark profits jump -- and so the summer went.
A Page 1 news article this week takes a little closer look at what happened during the summer by polling executives on their reaction to seasonal sales. And, as this week's news article shows, industry executives are generally upbeat about summer sales. Many cited a quieting of competitive threats as one of the reasons for an upside trend, and some were apparently surprised about that. (Later this fall, as more quarterly reports come in, SN will publish a more number-driven look at how the industry performed during the first half.)
Here's a summary of what executives of several companies polled for this week's article had to say:
Byerly's, Minnesota: "Sales exceeded our expectations because of favorable weather and the competitive impact of new store openings was not as strong as we had anticipated."
Stater Bros., California: "At last, the economy here is on its way back. We definitely bottomed out in January. People are going back to work and spending more money in the marketplace."
K-VA-T, Virginia: "[The summer] was much better this year than a year ago. We had a good summer even though we've had six supercenters open in our marketing area."
Big Y Foods, Massachusetts: "[We had] our biggest Labor Day sales ever." And the chain's use of BOGO promotions (buy one, get one free) yielded results "beyond our expectations."
Harvest Foods, Arkansas: "Last year, we saw a lot of competitors opening stores against us, including several Wal-Mart Supercenters, but now that competition has cycled [and] sales have been rebounding."
So, it seems, the news is pretty good when it comes to summer sales, and let's hope the new fall season will also bring good results. According to some executives mentioned in this week's news article, that very thing may be in the offing:
Farm Fresh, Virginia: "There are no indications of any negative economic factors and the only new store opening [against Farm Fresh] will be in November."
Save Mart Supermarkets, California: "I'd like to believe we're past the tough times now and things are only going to get better this fall."