MINNEAPOLIS — Nash Finch here has launched a new premium natural and organics brand named after the company's founding brothers. Products under the Nash Brothers Trading Company label are in their initial phase of distribution “and we're excited with the results,” Alec Covington, the wholesaler's president and chief executive officer, said last week.
A website, nashbrotherstrading.com, describes the products as “inspired by simpler times,” and brothers Fred, Edgar and Willis Nash, who founded the company as a Minnesota retail store in 1885. Featured products include granola, jellies and preserves, oatmeal, peanut butter, steamed vegetables and waffles. The website lists both natural and organic products, and notes that premium products under the new label are “coming soon.”
Speaking on a conference call discussing second-quarter results, Covington said Nash Finch would “place a lot of emphasis on expanding the brand” over the coming months.
In financial results for the period, which ended June 20, net earnings improved 1.1% to $9.5 million on sales of $1.2 billion. Sales were up 18.8%, mainly as the result of the acquisition of three military distribution centers and the shift of the Easter holiday to the second quarter; excluding those events, sales increased by 1.9%, the company said.
Covington added that the company was expanding an “everyday value” pricing program — which began for customers of Nash's Lima, Ohio, division — to retailers served by the company's other three Great Lakes facilities in Cincinnati; Bridgeport, Mich.; and Westville, Ind.
Nash Finch is also lowering its planned capital spending for the year, with estimates falling to a range of $25 million to $30 million from earlier estimates of $50 million. This, officials said, is a result of having delayed some capital projects when it first cut expenditures “and we simply won't be able to get all the money spent during the year,” Covington said.
By segment, Nash said food distribution sales improved by 2.2%, while corporate retail sales decreased by 1.7% when adjusted for the Easter impact. Military sales improved 61% as the result of the acquisitions, and 3.2% excluding their impact.
Covington said retail sales were slow — and would continue to struggle during the current quarter — due to cycling store openings from the previous year and the impact of new competition, particularly in Denver where it operates the Avanza Hispanic format. Covington said the company would look at opening new sites for Avanza in that market. Nash is also developing a new Buy n' Save format it intends to open later this year at a location to be determined.
In response to an analyst's question, Covington said he would “keep his eyes and ears open” about opportunities to make acquisitions that could arise as a result of the weak economy.
“We have believed all along that this [economic] environment could create some real opportunities,” he said.
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