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Nash Finch Takes Loss in Second Quarter

MINNEAPOLIS - National food distributor and retailer Nash Finch Company said yesterday that it experienced a $15.6 million net loss for the second quarter ended June 19, due in part to a charge of $24.3 million, or $1.96 a share, from closing 18 of its stores, including three under its now-defunct Avanza banner.

Apart from the impact of the store closings, the Minneapolis-based company's operating earnings showed solid improvement over the second quarter last year. Total sales were $906.4 million versus $888.6 million in the prior-year period.

Corporate retail sales were $202.0 million in the second quarter, versus $220.0 million in the year-ago period. Although same-store sales decreased 5.5 percent, this represented an improvement over the 9.2 percent decrease the company experienced during the first quarter 2004, Nash Finch noted.

Nash Finch also cited enhanced merchandising and pricing strategies it has begun implementing, as well as a continuing difficult competitive environment.

During a conference call yesterday, c.e.o. Ron Marshall said price inflation has not had a significant impact on the company during the latest quarter. However, he noted: "We're hearing about price increases from several of the leading consumer packaged goods manufacturers, like General Mills. But while list prices may be increasing, we're also seeing unprecedented deal levels."

Nash Finch announced in May that it would exit its Buy n Save and Avanza retail formats, closing its five Buy n Save outlets, and three Avanza outlets located in Chicago and Pueblo, Colo. Meanwhile, it said it would close 10 conventional outlets, primarily operating under the EconoFoods banner. The company is looking to sell its three Denver-area Avanza stores.

Nash Finch said yesterday it is now in a better position to focus on improving the performance of its 88 remaining retail stores.
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