Asheville's Ingles continues investments during slow economy
ASHEVILLE — Ingles Markets officials said Tuesday that the company has grown sales during a tough economy and is making investments that will help going forward.
The regional grocery chain continued updating stores last year and is in the middle of an expansion of its warehouse and distribution center at its headquarters at Black Mountain. The expansion, which will nearly double the size of the distribution center, “is definitely going to help us for years to come,” CEO Robert P. Ingle II told a crowd at the company’s annual shareholders meeting at the Grove Park Inn. Sales were up 5 percent for Ingles’ 2011 fiscal year and 5.2 percent for its most recent quarter. Company profits have been rising, although annual earnings have yet to return to levels seen in 2007 and 2008. Earnings per diluted share were $1.60 for the fiscal year ended late last September, up over the $1.26 reported for the previous fiscal year. Quarterly earnings for the period ended Dec. 24 were 43 cents a diluted share, up from 31 cents for the December 2010 quarter. The expansion will increase the company’s ability to handle distribution of refrigerated and frozen foods and is expected to be completed during the second half of this year, the company says. Ingles said in a regulatory filing that about 46 percent of its supermarkets’ inventory comes through the Black Mountain facility, currently about 919,000 square feet, and frozen foods come via an outside distributor. Ron Freeman, Ingles’ chief financial officer, said in an email after the meeting that the company will be able to bring distribution of frozen foods in house and that Ingles “needed more space for perishable items to accommodate the nice growth we have had over the years.” The shift will lower costs and allow quicker restocking, he said. The center employed about 750 workers in January 2011 and Ingles has said the expansion will add 160 to that number, although Freeman said Tuesday that the second figure may be larger. Ingles opened, replaced or remodeled four stores during the 2011 fiscal year. The sales growth is a testament to the company’s strategy of having modern stores with added features like fuel pumps and pharmacies, Freeman said during the meeting. “It’s been a highly competitive environment,” he said. Particularly during a sour economy, “Nobody wants to lose market share.”
Whatever, sell losers! EPS is rising and the stock pays a healthy dividend. Stock warrants a minimum 11 p/e that makes the stock worth $19. Just another buying opportunity. Getting some cash together hopefully they keep it low enough for me for next week. :)