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Smart & Final eyes more expansion


Value-oriented food retailer Smart & Final Stores Inc. plans to accelerate its expansion plans after posting double-digit sales growth in the fourth quarter.

The Commerce, Calif.-based company reported net earnings of $9.27 million or 12 cents a share for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 28, compared to a net loss of $6.99 million or 12 cents per share in the prior-year quarter. Net sales for the quarter grew 13% to $839.34 million from $742.80 million in the same quarter last year, and topped five Wall Street analysts' consensus estimate of $820.5 million. Same store sales for the quarter increased 7.8 percent.

"Performance across both the Smart & Final and Cash & Carry store banners was strong, driven by our ongoing merchandising and marketing efforts and consistent store level execution. Smart & Final Extra! continues to be the key to our new store growth," President and CEO Dave Hirz said.

The company expects to open four new Smart & Final Extra! Stores in the first quarter. It expects to open a total of 20 new Smart & Final Extra! stores, complete nine conversions of legacy stores to the Extra! format, including three store relocations, and open three Cash & Carry stores, including one store relocation in fiscal 2015.

"Looking ahead, in 2015 we plan to continue our accelerated pace of new store openings and believe that our strong performance in comparable store sales, competitive positioning, and real estate development pipeline provide the foundation for strong operating and financial performance," Hirz added.

For the full fiscal year of 2014, the company reported that net sales increased 10.1% to $3,534.2 million, same store sales grew 6.3%, and net income was $33.1 million, or 52 cents per diluted share.

"2014 was an exciting year for Smart & Final. We delivered record financial results, continued our accelerated store expansion program and successfully completed our initial public offering," Hirz added.

Smart & Final Stores operates 254 grocery and foodservice stores under the "Smart & Final", "Smart & Final Extra!" and "Cash & Carry Smart Foodservice" banners in California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Nevada, and Idaho, with an additional 14 stores in northern Mexico operated through a joint venture.

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