Harris Teeter is cutting the number of store openings and renovations planned for 2009 and beyond because of the weak economy, the Matthews-based grocer's parent company said in a filing Thursday.
Charlotte-based Ruddick Corp. said in a filing last summer that it planned to spend about $245 million in 2009 to build 19 new stores and complete eight major remodeling projects. By the fall, those numbers had declined to $241 million to open 17 new stores and finish four major remodeling projects.
The company now says it plans to spend $212 million on such projects in 2009, opening 16 new stores and remodeling three. It is also building a $100 million distribution center in Fredericksburg, Va., that would open in fiscal 2012 and serve its growing roster of stores in the Washington, D.C., area. The center would help save money on transportation, the company said.
Ruddick also announced Thursday that its quarterly earnings slipped 1.7 percent, as a sales drop at textile maker American & Efird offset gains at Harris Teeter. Ruddick, the parent of both, reported net income of $22.9 million, or 47 cents per diluted share, in its first quarter that ended Dec. 29. That's compared to $23.3 million, or 48 cents per diluted share, during the same period the year before.
Growth at Harris Teeter helped Ruddick sales increase 1.9 percent, to $995 million. The Matthews-based grocer's sales rose 3.6 percent, to $928.9 million. That, however, was due to new stores; sales at stores open a year or more, a key gauge of retail health, declined 2.1 percent.
The company attributed that decrease to the recession, noting that customers are buying fewer items per shopping visit. However, the company has been spending additional money on promotions and said its data suggests Harris Teeter is gaining market share and selling more store brand products. Harris Teeter's operating profit rose slightly because of cost-control measures, the company said in a news release.
American & Efird sales declined 17.6 percent, to $66.1 million, as the recession hit the auto and apparel industries that drive a large piece of its business, the Ruddick release said.