Metro has released its financial results for the first quarter of 2018 (the 12-week period ending December 21).
- sales were up 4.7% over Q1 2017, to $3.1 billion;
- same-store sales were up 3.4% over Q1 2017 (1.2% taking into account the shift of Christmas- week results, which fell in the second quarter in 2017);
- net earnings for Q1 2018 were just under $1.3 bn;
- the quarterly dividend was $0.18 per share, up 10.8% over last year.
In announcing the results, Metro CEO Eric La Fleche said that the company’s acquisition of meal-kit startup Miss Fresh has brought increased customer traffic into stores. Metro has been offering the kits in store, to complement the Miss Fresh delivery model. Ready-to-eat meals were one of the fastest-growing segments of the foodservice industry in 2017, growing at 20% per year.
“The in-store pickup reduces delivery costs of Miss Fresh, but it also increases traffic into the Metro stores, and we have promotions ongoing,” Metro chief executive Eric La Fleche said as reported in the Financial Post.
The Canadian Press reports that Metro is increasing the number of self-checkout lanes in its grocery stores, particularly in Ontario, and is also testing scan-and-go technology as minimum wage levels go up in Ontario and Quebec. The company plans a scan-and-go pilot project in Quebec, though the precise location hasn’t been identified.
Metro projects that the wage rise in Ontario will cost it $35 million in fiscal 2018, rising to $45-$50 million a year when it’s fully implemented. The rise in Quebec isn’t expected to have as much of an impact.
Addressing the price-fixing scheme for the first time since the story broke in October, the Globe and Mail reported that La Fleche also said, “From what we see at this stage, we haven’t contradicted the Competition Act. We refute the allegations of industrywide collusion.” Metro is conducting its own internal probe and says it has found no evidence of anything improper.