SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — Stater Bros. Markets here expects to begin shipments early next month from its new dry grocery distribution center, with shipments from its new refrigerated facility scheduled to begin in early August, Jack Brown, chairman and chief executive officer, said yesterday. He made his remarks during a conference call with bondholders to discuss financial results for the first quarter ended Dec. 30, which saw net income rise 9.1% to $10.8 million and sales increase 4.3% to $943 million, while like-store sales rose 3.3%. The company said like-store sales were negatively impacted by the timing of Christmas Day, the only day of the year Stater stores are closed, which fell in this year's first quarter, compared with the last year's second quarter, and which resulted in a sales reduction of $9.4 million. Brown said he anticipates comps to hold above 3% for the year. In response to a question, Brown said he expects suppliers to continue to raise prices, "but I think the rate of increase will slow down later this year, though it will still be there."
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