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Unified Reports Strong Earnings for First Quarter

LOS ANGELES --Unified Western Grocers, Inc., the largest wholesale grocery distributor in the western United States, reported a leap in earnings for the fiscal quarter ended Jan. 1, 2005 over the same period last year.

The grocery cooperative achieved net earnings of $3.9 million in the quarter, an increase of $1.9 million.

Sales were down 8.6 percent from the same period in 2004, the company said, largely because at that time Unified had benefited from the lockout that hindered sales at three of its major grocery chain competitors in Southern California.

Unified said its improved performance reflects gains in gross margin and the results of continued efforts at controlling costs. As a result, the cooperative's cash flow was approximately $16.4 million for the quarter, and total outstanding debt fell by $6.9 million.

"Investments we have made over the past several years to improve the efficiency of our distribution system are beginning to pay big dividends," said Al Plamann, president and c.e.o. of Unified, in a statement. "We have seen dramatic improvements in productivity at our warehouses during the past year, and now we're seeing how those numbers are having a positive impact on our earnings."

Plamann noted that many of Unified's members are planning to open new stores this year, which should results in additional sales in the future.
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