Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Winn-Dixie Shareholders Get a Progress Report Restructuring Complete; Retrofit Program Just Beginning

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Winn-Dixie Shareholders Get a Progress Report Restructuring Complete; Retrofit Program Just Beginning

Article excerpt

When Al Rowland and other top Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. executives asked themselves how they could improve the performance of the supermarket chain, they came up with a simple answer:

"We've got to be more efficient and we've got to run better stores," said Rowland, who took over as president and chief executive officer last November.

But while the answer is simple, achieving those goals is not so easy. And at yesterday's annual shareholders meeting in Jacksonville, Rowland admitted that while the company has made strides, it still is a work in progress.

"I don't want to leave the impression we think we have solved our problems," he said. "Are we where we want to be? No. Are we close? No."

Winn-Dixie yesterday reported earnings of $9.4 million, or 7 cents per diluted share, in the first quarter ended Sept. 20, down from $22.1 million, or 15 cents a share last year. Restructuring charges in the quarter reduced earnings by $5.5 million, or 4 cents a share, in the quarter.

Sales fell 7 percent to $2.94 billion, due to the closing of some stores, and comparable store sales fell 2.8 percent, due to the elimination of some unprofitable sales departments and other restructuring factors.

Jacksonville-based Winn-Dixie, which operates 1,079 stores across the Southeast, announced a massive restructuring program in April that included closing 116 stores and eliminating 11,000 jobs. That process is done, but the company has just started on plans to retrofit 650 of its stores to become more efficient.

Rowland said a year after the retrofit program is complete, he expects the company to realize cost savings equal to $1.76 per share after taxes. That's a pretty significant number, considering that in Winn-Dixie's peak earnings year, fiscal 1996, its total net income per diluted share was $1.68.

During the meeting, Rowland outlined several steps the company is taking in its retrofit program, such as reducing the floor space for its perishable goods products. …

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