LOS ANGELES -- Unified Western Grocers here said sales and earnings on continuing operations improved for the third quarter and 39 weeks ended June 28, and debt reduction continued.
ter and $3.5 million for the year to date, compared with losses a year ago.
Discontinued operations encompass the cooperative's 12-store retail division, which was closed in September 2002.
Unified said earnings on continuing operations were up 15.2% to $5.4 million for the quarter and 30.2% to $16.2 million for the year to date; in addition, while estimated patronage dividends fell 13.3% to $3.8 million for the quarter, they rose 5.7% to $10.5 million for the 39 weeks.
The company said operating cash flow for the year to date was $83 million, compared with $27.4 million a year ago, enabling the company to reduce its total debt by $57 million since the beginning of the year.
The company said it attributed its solid earnings performance to increased productivity at each of its five major distribution centers; a companywide reduction in expenses; the closing of three unprofitable subsidiaries (printing, trucking and security operations) in the Pacific Northwest; and an emphasis on controlling working capital. Sales growth was driven by a combination of more than 25 new store openings by existing members and new business obtained during the quarter in California and Arizona, including some business from Fleming.
According to Al Plamann, president and chief executive officer, "Performance improvements reported in our first two quarters have continued into the third quarter, and we are confident we are on track for positive year-end results. In addition to keeping an eye on costs, we are attracting new members into our cooperative, and our existing members are opening new stores, and all these factors are having a positive impact on our bottom line."