KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Associated Wholesale Grocers here outlined a theme of "investing for the future" in explaining unusual expenditures and reduced earnings. "Investments in technology and operations, vital to the company and our members' future, were undertaken and are reflected in the year's sales and patronage figures," said the wholesaler's annual report. Net earnings in 1997 were $63.9 million, down 4.3% from the year prior. Sales of $3.1 billion were essentially unchanged from 1996. ...

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