Unified Western Grocers Sees 'Turnaround Performance' in Fiscal 2002

LOS ANGELES - Unified Western Grocers Inc., a leading retailer-owned wholesale grocery distributor in the Western region, recently announced that it achieved a turnaround performance in 2002.

The Los Angeles-based cooperative said its earnings from continuing operations for the fiscal year ended Sept. 28, 2002 rose to $20.9 million, a 56 percent improvement over the prior year.

The company attributes its improved performance to an increase in net sales ($22 million improvement over the prior year), improvements in productivity and throughput in each of its five major distribution centers, a company-wide reduction in expenses, a workforce reduction, improvements in the profitability of its insurance and specialty grocery subsidiaries, continued strength in its financing subsidiary, and improved working capital levels.

As a result of its improved performance, Unified generated $16.7 million in patronage dividends for members of the cooperative, up from $14.9 million in 2001.

Unified chose to exit the retail business in 2002, even though its retail operations also improved. The company said as a result, it hopes to further invest in the wholesale distribution business and reduce its level of debt.

"Our results for 2002 reflect some very significant operational improvements in our wholesale business," said Al Plamann, president and CEO. "Our core wholesale business remained strong and robust in a very difficult retail environment. We were effective in our efforts to pare expenses without sacrificing service levels, and our subsidiaries had improvements over the prior year. We are moving into the new year with a clean slate and are looking forward to the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead."
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