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Waitrose & Partners: higher sales and a recovery in operating profits in FY 2018

ICA: 42% growth in online sales in FY 2018

UK: Wales to 'lead the way' in cutting plastic bag use
Welsh shoppers will be the first in the UK to trial a scheme to cut the use of plastic bags. Supermarket chain Lidl is removing 9p plastic bags from all of its 54 stores in Wales after identifying they were increasingly only being used once. The move is expected to result in 5mln fewer plastic bags being sold annually. The initiative could be rolled out across the rest of the UK, potentially saving 2,500 tonnes of plastic. Lidl said Wales was the "obvious location" for the trial having "led the way" for the rest of the UK with the introduction of the plastic bag levy in 2011. The retailer removed all 5p bags from sale in 2018 and will now remove all 9p bag from its stores in Wales by 1 May.

Australia: Metcash sets new five year strategy
Metcash has revealed a new five year plan worth AU$270mln that will see it speed up existing initiatives, test new store formats, upgrade its digital services and improve the infrastructure of the business. Although Metcash has struggled in recent years, some of its strategies have been successful. The Diamond Store refresh programme has been rolled out to 320 stores and boosted sales on average by 10%. The wholesaler plans to accelerate the roll out to more stores, targeting up to an additional 500 outlets. As part of this work, it will also better define and flex the shopper proposition in terms of range and price for its formats. The roll out of the Community Co private label will also increase, targeting the potential to increase the range from 250 to 750 items.

Sweden: ICA sees strong online sales growth in FY 2018
Swedish retailer ICA Gruppen has reported a 42% growth in online sales for its ICA supermarket banner in financial year 2018. Online sales in its pharmacy chain Apotek Hjärtat’s grew by 55%. The retail group's EBIT for the financial year amounted to SEK 4.65bln (€440mln) with an operating margin of 4%. Chief executive of ICA Gruppen, Per Strömberg, said: "2018 was a good year for ICA Gruppen. We are securing our strong positions in the grocery retail and pharmacy markets and, in the meantime, digitalisation is providing us with new opportunities for synergies and cooperation within the Group. We are presenting good earnings growth overall."

New Zealand: PAK’nSAVE deploys Zebra handheld computers
New Zealand supermarket chain PAK’nSAVE has successfully deployed Zebra’s PS20 personal shopper handheld computers within its SHOP’n GO system across some of its supermarkets, in the lower North Island, to enhance its customer experience. IT services provider Zebra says that as a result of deploying its PS20 personal shopper system, PAK’nSAVE stores can offer faster checkout with increased time savings for frontline employees and customers. According to Zebra, customers with large shopping lists have reported saving up to 30 minutes for a single shopping trip by using the scan-as-you-go devices.

UK's Waitrose & Partners FY 2018: steady sales growth
Waitrose has reported higher sales and a recovery in operating profits in its full year results to 26th January 2019. Sales grew +1.2% to £6.8bln, with like-for-like sales growth of +1.3%. Operating profit (before exceptional items) recovered from a weak FY2017 result, growing +18.1% to £203.2mln. Waitrose's online business outperformed the market, achieving sales growth of +14%. Waitrose's operating profit (before exceptional items) grew by £31.2mln in the period, mainly due to improved gross margins. Sir Charlie Mayfield, Partner and Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, commented on the results: “In line with expectations set out in June, our Partnership profits before exceptional have finished substantially lower in what has been a challenging year, particularly in non-food. Operating profit recovered strongly in Waitrose & Partners, mainly due to improved gross margins".

UK's John Lewis cuts staff bonus ahead of Brexit
Britain’s John Lewis Partnership said it is as ready as it can be for Brexit, whatever scenario, after reporting a 45% drop in full year profit and cutting its staff bonus to the lowest level in 66 years. Despite predicting trading conditions would remain tough, the employee-owned retailer’s chairman forecast operating profit would grow in the full 2019-20 year. He cautioned though that the department stores arm may report a first half loss. John Lewis Partnership, which runs the eponymous department stores business and up-market supermarket Waitrose, said it had built up record liquidity of 1.5bln pounds ($2bln) to mitigate risks and maintain annual investment at 400-500mln pounds.

Turkish supermarket chain to open 100 new stores this year
Migros, one of Turkey's leading supermarket chains, is planning to open at least 100 new stores in 2019, with a projected capital of TL 300mln. While the supermarket chain's consolidated sales amounted to TL 18.7bln, with a growth rate of 22% last year, the company registered a loss of TL 835.6mln during this period due to financial expenses that rose sharply in line with the depreciation of Turkish lira. The company plans to increase its consolidated sales by 20% this year, according to targets, together with the balance sheet. Migros operates over 2,000 branches in Turkey's 81 provinces under the Migros, M-Jet, 5M, and Macrocenter brands. It is also active in Kazakhstan and Macedonia through over 40 Ramstore outlets.

Brazil: GPA to focus on expansion and store optimisation
Brazilian retailer Grupo Pão de Açúcar (GPA) has announced plans to invest up to R$1.8bln (€421.7mln) in 2019 for expansion and optimisation purposes. The retailer aims to focus on higher-return projects and strengthen its regional performance. Its cash and carry banner Assaí, which saw an improvement in sales volume and customer traffic during 2018, will see the opening of 15-20 new stores this year. Assaí expects same-store sales growth of roughly 2% above inflation, and total sales growth of over 20%, the company said. EBITDA margin should expand by around 0.3% to 0.4%, driven mainly by the performance of stores opened in recent years. In the retail (Multivarejo) segment, GPA forecasts same-store sales growth of roughly 1% above inflation. The EBITDA margin is expected to increase by 0.3%, driven by the optimising and repositioning of its portfolio at Mercado Extra and Compre Bem, and operating efficiency gains. The company will also continue store renovations and expansion of its premium supermarket banner Pão de Açúcar.

Walmart's Mexico sales up 5.4% in February, exceeding estimates
Mexico’s biggest retailer, Wal-Mart de Mexico, said that its same-store sales in Mexico rose 5.4% in February, exceeding analyst estimates for a month that saw record high consumer confidence. Part of U.S.-based Walmart, Walmex said total sales in February, including its stores in Central America, totaled 45.9bln pesos ($2.37bln), up 5.5% compared to the same month last year.

US: FreshDirect expands suburban delivery and same-day service
New York City-based FreshDirect is expanding to more areas in Connecticut and Washington, D.C. this month, the online grocer said in a press release. The company has additional expansion plans scheduled later this year through early 2020. In Washington, D.C., FreshDirect will expand to suburbs outside of the metro area in Virginia and Maryland. In Connecticut, the retailer will expand to Fairfield, Norwalk, Southport and Westport. In addition, the e-grocer introduced a same-day delivery service for customers who place an order before 10 a.m. The service will be available in Manhattan beginning March 11 and will roll out to Brooklyn and Westchester County in the near future. The company also offers its FoodKick service, which launched in 2016 and offers a selection of prepared foods, alcohol and grocery essentials in select markets.

US: For BJ’s, a record-breaking fourth quarter
BJ's Wholesale Club reported better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings, with comparable club sales for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2018 increasing 2.8% compared to the fourth quarter of fiscal 2017. Excluding the impact of gasoline sales, merchandise comparable sales increased 2.9%, representing the sixth consecutive quarter of positive merchandise comparable sales. For fiscal 2018, comparable sales increased 3.7% compared to fiscal 2017. Excluding the impact of gasoline sales, merchandise comparable sales for fiscal 2018 increased 2.2% compared to fiscal 2017. The company reported net income of $64.3mln, or 46 cents per diluted share, and adjusted net income of $62.1mln, or 44 cents per diluted share, for the quarter. For the full year, BJ’s had net income of $127.3mln, or $1.05 per diluted share, and adjusted net income of $186.2mln, or $1.33 per diluted share.

US: Costco reports second quarter and year-to-date operating results for fiscal 2019 and February sales results
Costco Wholesale Corporation (“Costco” or the “Company”) announced its operating results for the second quarter (twelve weeks) and the first 24 weeks of fiscal 2019, ended February 17, 2019. Net sales for the quarter increased 7.3%, to $34.63bln from $32.28bln last year. Net sales for the first 24 weeks increased 8.7%, to $68.94bln from $63.40bln last year. For the four-week reporting month of February, ended March 3, 2019, the Company reported net sales of $10.72bln, an increase of 5.0% from $10.21bln last year. For the twenty-six week period ended March 3, 2019, net sales were $74.42bln, an increase of 8.6% from $68.51bln last year. 

US: Kroger reports sales dip in Q4, FY 2018
Kroger took a hit for both quarter four and its overall fiscal 2018, reporting sales declines due to big investments made by the Cincinnati-based grocer. Kroger's 9.5% decline in sales during the quarter - $28.1bln compared to $31bln for the same period a year prior - was the result of fuel sales, the 53rd week of fiscal 2017, the divestiture of the grocer's convenience-store business unit, and the merger with Home Chef. Not counting those, total sales grew 1.6% during the quarter compared to Q4 2017. Gross margin was 22% of sales for Q4. Excluding fuel, the 53rd week and the LIFO credit, gross margin dropped 93 basis points from the same period a year prior due to changes in mix and investments in supply chain, as well as investments in price.

US: Whole Foods cuts workers' hours after Amazon introduces minimum wage
In response to public pressure and increasing scrutiny over the pay of its warehouse workers, Amazon enacted a $15 minimum wage for all its employees on 1 November, including workers at grocery chain Whole Foods, which it purchased in 2017. All Whole Foods employees paid less than $15 an hour saw their wages increase to at least that, while all other team members received a $1 an hour wage increase and team leaders received a $2 an hour increase. But since the wage increase, Whole Food employees have told the Guardian that they have experienced widespread cuts that have reduced schedule shifts across many stores, often negating wage gains for employees.

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