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Winn-Dixie raises guidance for fiscal 2009, announces remodeling program of stores

BY Allison Cerra

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. Winn-Dixie Stores has raised its previously issued adjusted EBITDA guidance for fiscal 2009.

The company now expects adjusted EBITDA for fiscal 2009 to be approximately $164 million, exceeding the high-end of its previous guidance of $152 million, due primarily to a higher gross profit margin achieved in the fourth quarter and a reduction in its estimated annual LIFO charge to $15 million from its previous estimate of $19 million.

Winn-Dixie expects to report net sales for fiscal 2009 of approximately $7.4 billion, an increase of approximately $86 million, compared with the prior fiscal year, with identical stores sales from continuing operations up 1.2%, compared with the prior fiscal year. Gross margin is expected to be approximately 28.5%.

In addition, the company’s actual results for the fiscal year will be reported on or about August 24, in its filing of its annual report on Form 10-K with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Meanwhile, the retailer announced last week that it had completed remodels and upgrades on 51 of its Winn-Dixie stores in the Jacksonville area, comprising locations in North Florida and South Georgia, as part of its Phase II store remodel program. In Phase II, the Company will primarily employ a market-by-market strategy and plans to remodel all of its stores in a Winn-Dixie market before moving on. This approach will help the Company target its advertising efforts and leverage its brand more effectively.

Additionally, Winn-Dixie continued to make progress with the store remodeling program it commenced in the second half of fiscal 2007. The company is on track to remodel roughly half of its stores by the end of fiscal 2010 and substantially all of its stores by the end of fiscal 2013.

As of the end of fiscal 2009, the company had completed 170 store remodels, 73 of which were still within their first year of operation. Of the 73 first-year store remodels, 47 are considered by the company to be offensive remodels. For fiscal 2009, those 47 stores had a 10.3% weighted average sales increase, compared with the same period in the prior fiscal year, excluding the grand re-opening phase. The sales increase resulted from increases in transaction count and basket size of 5.6% and 4.5%, respectively.

Winn-Dixie currently operates 515 retail grocery locations, including more than 400 in-store pharmacies, in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, and Mississippi.

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Report: Standards for glucose monitors may change

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK Federal officials may soon require improvements for the glucose monitors used by more than 11 million diabetics in the United States, the New York Times has reported.

Home glucose monitors, which can have an error rate of as much as 20%, can leave patients vulnerable to more dire consequences, including coma and death. Because of this, the Food and Drug Administration is seeking out The International Organization for Standardization to revise the international standards for such glucose monitoring systems.

In May, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists urged that revisions be made in a letter to said officials. “Because of the highly variable quality of the meters and the glucose testing strips in widespread use, the safety of our patients who depend upon those meters is threatened,” they wrote.

An organization representing the monitor manufacturers, however, believes that the current standards are working. Meanwhile, a study by government researchers found that when comparing tests from five different popular monitors, results varied by as much as 32%, the New York Times reported.

According to the New York Times, diabetes has been diagnosed in 18 million people in the United States, and another 6 million are estimated to have the disease without knowing it. It is the seventh leading cause of death and costs the United States an estimated $174 billion a year, with the federal Medicare program spending $1 billion on diabetes test strips alone.

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Hallmark launches mobile greetings Web site

BY Allison Cerra

KANSAS CITY, Mo. Hallmark has launched a line of greetings that can be accessed through a mobile device.

Hallmark Mobile Greetings, which launched Tuesday, is an innovative new product for cell phones that combines the immediacy of a text message with creative design and editorial. Senders can also add their own personal message to any of the greetings. The initial launch includes a small network of phone models, eventually Hallmark Mobile Greetings will work on the majority of mobile phone models and will be able to be sent from most major mobile phone networks to any other network.

Hallmark Mobile Greetings is available by downloading to a cell phone the free mobile phone application from www.mobile.hallmark.com. Users can then send greetings to other mobile phones. In addition, consumers also can send greetings directly from mobile.hallmark.com for delivery to a mobile device.

Each Hallmark Mobile Greeting costs 99 cents. Fees are billed as part of monthly service-provider charges and the sender is only charged if the recipient opens the mobile greeting. The application itself is free of charge, though standard data rates may apply so consumers are advised to check their contract with their carrier.

More than 500 Hallmark Mobile Greetings are available in the following categories: Just for Fun, Birthday, Thinking of You, Love, Holidays, Characters & Collections, Congratulations and Business Greetings. More categories and mobile greetings will be added in the future.

For more information on Hallmark Mobile Greetings, visit www.mobile.hallmark.com.

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