Plenty of Americans split their shopping between standard supermarkets, where they pick up meat and produce, and warehouse stores, where they buy bulk goods.
But Smart & Final Stores Inc. wants to be the place for both. And that strategy is filling the Commerce retailer’s cash registers.
After markets closed March 18, Smart & Final reported net income of $9.3 million, or 12 cents a share, for the quarter ended Dec. 28, compared with a loss of $7 million, negative 12 cents a share, for the same period a year earlier. (Much of the loss was related to a big debt payment that was part of a refinancing transaction.)
The earnings report, which covered the first full quarter since the retailer’s initial public offering in September, also showed a big bump in sales. Revenue for the quarter hit $839 million, a 13 percent increase.
Shares of Smart & Final jumped 8 percent during the week ended March 18 to close at $16.61, making it one of the biggest gainers on the LABJ Stock Index. (See Page 38.) The stock opened 15 percent higher the following day.
Smart & Final Chief Executive Dave Hirz said the strong earnings are the fruits of a strategy that began about five years ago, when the company – which had long focused on selling to restaurants and other commercial customers – started doing more to attract typical grocery shoppers.
A big part of that strategy was creating Smart & Final Extra! stores, which are smaller and have extra amenities, such as farmers market-style produce sections, that cater more to ordinary shoppers.
“Our household customers can do two stops in one stop,” Hirz said. “It totally replaces the shopping trip to a Kroger, a Safeway or an Albertsons.”
Sean Naughton, who covers Smart & Final for Minneapolis investment bank Piper Jaffray & Co., raised his price target on the company from $17 to $18 a share in a March 18 research note released before the earnings report. He wrote that the recent strength of the restaurant industry should be boosting Smart & Final’s Cash & Carry stores, which cater to commercial customers.
Hirz said Smart & Final’s two-pronged model also makes the company relatively recession proof.
“In a good economy, people are eating out more frequently, so our restaurant customers buy more,” he said. “When the economy is tougher, people buy groceries to eat at home more, so we win there.”
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