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Price limits sink Stater Bros. profit

February 12, 2009|Jerry Hirsch

Limiting price increases hurt earnings at supermarket company Stater Bros. Holdings Inc.

The San Bernardino grocery company, the largest independent supermarket chain in Southern California, said earnings fell 68% to $3.5 million in its first quarter ended Dec. 28.

Sales rose 2% to $959 million compared with the same period a year earlier. Same-store sales, an important measure of a retailer's health, rose 1.4%.

"Our plan is to assist our customers during these very tough economic times," said Jack Brown, chief executive of the 165-store chain, "and the plan is working."

"By holding back on price increases, which affected our profits, we served approximately 1 million more customers in the first quarter of fiscal 2009 than in the first quarter of fiscal 2008," he said.

The company's financial performance reflected the economic downturn, Brown said. "The tough economy has hit our marketing area of the Inland Empire especially hard as we have seen business closures, layoffs and increases in unemployment. The uncertain economic future has caused our customers to tighten their family budgets."

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jerry.hirsch@latimes.com

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