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Winn-Dixie closes gap toward quarterly black

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Operations at Winn-Dixie Stores continued to improve across the second quarter, helping to drive shares up by 11 cents to $6.92 per share in mid-day trading.

“Overall I feel good about our progress this quarter,” Peter Lynch, Winn-Dixie chairman, CEO and president, told analysts Tuesday morning during a conference call. “[We] continued to improve sales through strategic adjustments to our promotional activity.”

Net sales for the second quarter essentialy were flat at $2.1 billion, as compared with the same period in the prior fiscal year, the grocer reported. Identical-store sales, which exclude stores that opened or closed during the quarter, fell slightly by 0.3% for the second quarter.

Winn-Dixie’s identical-store sales trend improved by 250 basis points, compared with the first quarter of fiscal 2011, and 470 basis points, compared with the fourth quarter of fiscal 2010. Those improvements came despite increased competitive activity and a continued mix shift from branded pharmaceutical to generic products, Lynch said. In addition, having the New Orleans Saints play in last year’s Super Bowl, an earlier Lent and Mardi Gras helped boost sales a year ago, Lynch added.

Winn-Dixie reported a net loss of $24 million, or 43 cents per diluted share, compared with net income of $2.1 million ,or 4 cents per diluted share, for the same period last year.

The grocer dropped its expected capital expenditures for fiscal 2011 by $26 million to $132 million — a result of pushing 15 of 17 planned “transformational” remodels out to the first half of fiscal 2012. “Our transformational stores continue to exceed our expectations, but we feel it is appropriate to take a bit more time to refine, construct and launch the next set of these stores,” Lynch stated. Presently, the chain’s three transformational stores are generating $475 in sales per sq. ft. versus a chain average of $300 in sales per sq. ft.

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