Empire Company Limited reported a strong first quarter of fiscal 2021 achieving a 47 per cent increase in earnings compared to the same period last year, 11 per cent same-store sales growth and a 370 per cent surge in ecommerce. It also announced plans to open two new FreshCo locations in Western Canada.
Net earnings increased to $191.9 million compared to $130.6 million last year.
Empire continues its aggressive expansion into Western Canada with the announcement of the two new FreshCo stores, located in Grand Prairie, Alta. and Regina, Sask. The new stores mark 30 of approximately 65 FreshCo locations that Empire announced earlier it planned to open in Western Canada.
The Alberta store is a new site and the second Saskatchewan store is a Sobeys store that will close for renovations in the winter of fiscal 2022 and re-open that summer as a FreshCo.
"The momentum at Empire – at all levels of the Company – is remarkable," says Michael Medline, president and CEO, Empire. "The team is moving with velocity and is laser-focused on our Project Horizon goals. Since fiscal 2021 started, we launched Project Horizon, our new three-year strategy for growth, Voilà by Sobeys went live in the GTA, our Farm Boy and FreshCo expansions continued, we ratified a key labour agreement in the West, launched a new national brand campaign for our Compliments private label lineup, and our debt was upgraded to investment grade. On top of that, we continue to see strong market share growth."
During the first quarter 2021, Empire launched its new three-year strategy dubbed Project Horizon, a growth plan for expansion of its core business and ecommerce.
Empire says it continues to invest in safety and sanitation in stores and continues to monitor the impact of the pandemic on food retail, noting that the crisis has “fundamentally impacted how Canadians shop for food. Canadians are shopping less frequently and with larger basket sizes. With this shift in shopping behaviour, many are gravitating to one-stop-shop grocery stores that meet all their household needs and online grocery.”
As a result of this consumer shift, online grocery sales have soared with Empire’s ecommerce businesses in Quebec and B.C. experiencing sales growth of approximately 370 per cent in the first quarter.
Empire noted while it is too early to forecast sales in the medium term, over the past 14 weeks ending September 5, 2020, same-store sales growth averaged eight to ten per cent.