TORONTO — Loblaw Cos. here said it eked out a same-store sales gain of 0.3% in the first quarter, and profits improved for the period on reduced costs, improved productivity and other factors.
The company, the largest supermarket operator in Canada, posted net income of about $135 million (U.S.), a gain of 25.7%, on sales of $6.8 billion, up 3.1%, compared with the year-ago first quarter.
Loblaw said tonnage was about even with a year ago, but it saw increases in transaction counts and slight declines in average transaction value.
Allan Leighton, president and deputy chairman, said Canadian consumers seem to be shopping around for the best deals, and their purchases are much more varied week-to-week than they historically had been.
“One thing that may have changed forever is the amount of shopping around there is,” he said in a conference call with analysts discussing the first-quarter results. “And people are much more promiscuous — it's probably twice the level of promiscuity as you would have found a year ago. That's quite a big change, and something that's still growing a bit.”
He attributed improved profit margins primarily to “disciplined vendor management, a stronger Canadian dollar and control label profitability,” the latter of which he said the company was still working to improve.
The company said sales were positively impacted by 2% by the acquisition of the T&T Supermarkets banner in the third quarter of a year ago, and by 0.5% by the positive impact of a labor strike at its Maxi stores in the year-ago first quarter.