Customer Demand for Low Prices Drives Slight Sales Dip at Unified

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Customer Demand for Low Prices Drives Slight Sales Dip at Unified

General economic conditions, including a shift in customer demand toward lower-cost items, were behind a drop in sales and profits for regional wholesaler Unified Grocers, Inc.

The Los Angeles-based cooperative reported net sales of $1 billion for the first fiscal quarter ended Jan. 2, 2010, vs. $1.045 billion, a 4.3 percent drop compared with last year.

Unified attributed $12.4 million of the reduction in sales to the shift of the New Year’s holiday from the second quarter of fiscal 2009 to the first quarter of fiscal 2010. Sales during the week of the New Year’s holiday are lower than a typical sales week. The decrease in sales was partially offset by additional sales of $8.7 million in the company’s specialty foods subsidiary.

Net earnings were $3.7 million for the quarter, down from $3.9 million last year.

“We are pleased with our results for the first quarter,” said Al Plamann, president and CEO of Unified. “While our net earnings were off slightly, our performance is right where we thought we would be at this point in time. If the economy continues to show signs of stabilizing throughout the year, we believe Unified and our independent retailers will perform well in 2010.”

“Although the economy doesn’t appear to be in full recovery mode yet, some stabilizing factors are becoming more apparent with the passage of time,” Plamann added. “While consumers continue to spend cautiously, our sales during the holiday season reflected an improvement over recent trends. For the most part, our independent retailers are right in synch with this shift. They are both flexible in their product mix and maintain close contact with their customers.”

Unified Grocers is a retailer-owned wholesale grocery distributor that supplies independent retailers throughout the western United States.