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Food retail consolidation is "inevitable" given the over-supply of competing chains and stores, AML Foods' chief executive telling Tribune Business it was likely to happen first in Freeport, where 10 major players were chasing 40,000-50,000 customers.
Gavin Watchorn, who is also the BISX-listed food retail group's president, said acquisitions were the likeliest route for achieving consolidation, given that no grocery retailers were contemplating failure, while the industry's "diverse" ownership meant mergers would be hard to execute.
With food retail industry veterans describing the current market as "the most competi ...
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
As Solomon's Fresh Market's opening looms in November, AML Foods Limited is considering two more store openings in the coming years, with executives confident there is a strong place for the supermarket in the Bahamian marketplace.
"We're very confident it will be successful and with the right location we can duplicate it in the future," said Gavin Watchorn, Group President and CEO.
"There is room for more than one of these stories - I would say three is a possibility in The Bahamas."
Watchorn was unable to give an exact timetable or specify where the stores would be built at this time.
The business model behind Solomon's Fresh Market, he added, includes a healthy, natural and organic image, which is a niche he believes will fit in well with Bahamian shoppers.
The news comes as the company announced their second-quarter results this week, revealing that while the company's sales are up, net profits have suffered due to the high price of utilities.
In fact, utilities rose 15 percent this year, or $294,000, which "materially impacted" earnings, according to the press release.
The company is putting aside $1 million in 2012 for capital expenditures that will focus on energy usage reduction, geared towards replacing air conditioning and refrigeration units throughout their holdings.
The CEO explained that is four times AML Foods normal expenditure in this area.
Most years, he said the company tends to spend $250,000 on upgrades to improve energy efficiency.
Although the $1 million is expected to have a major impact on utilities costs, Watchorn noted that Solomon's Fresh Market presented a particularly unique opportunity to reduce costs in the future.
Building something "from the ground up", he said, allows AML Foods to be "as energy efficient as possible".
He speculated the approach will save the store between 40 and 50 percent in costs, compared to the other stores under AML's umbrella.
"When we were designing the store, we sat down with utilities in mind," he said.
"Our branding and vision for the store is healthy, natural and organic. We don't want to give the wrong impression as energy hogs. So we have made a lot of decisions and investments that will reduce energy usage."
For example, Watchorn said the new store will make use of skylights, meaning Solomon's won't have to rely on standard electricity as much.
Dionisio D'Aguilar, the Chairman of AML Foods Limited, added that employing these energy saving tactics have been a priority from the beginning.
"I know it has been a major topic of discussion," he felt.
"Natural lighting, keeping the building cool, and yet reducing AC usage is important."
In the case of the skylights, Watchorn explained the lights in the supermarket will actually automatically dim or brighten based on the conditions outside.
Similarly, Solomon's will employ top-notch air conditioners that work in tandem with the store's humidity, cutting on and off depending on the climate control needs.
Energy efficient refrigerators, freezers and special building materials represent a larger initial expenditure.
But Watchorn said he is confident the investment will pay off.
"We believe we will see a return on it in the future in regards to our utility bills."
Bahamians from all walks of life stood united in the warm glow of candlelight, to pray for relief of people living in poverty and hunger around the world.
As the weather starts to really warm up we start to look for ways to cool down and food is no exception.
Summer food is lighter and seems fresh and bright compared to the heavier meals of the winter season. When the mercury starts to approach the red line, these hot season favorites will be a hit around the pool, out on the patio or under a beach umbrella...
Doctors Hospital recognizes the plea from charities during this tough
economic time and has stepped up to the table with food donations for the
Urban Renewal annual Thanksgiving Luncheon.
AML Foods Limited has recorded a net profit of $1.06 million for the fourth quarter ending January 31, 2013 after pre-opening costs of $356,000, compared to $1.12 million for the same period in the previous year. The company has also registered a year-to-date net profit of $2.42 million after pre-opening costs of $590,000, compared to a prior year-to-date net profit of $1.74 million after pre-opening costs of $296,000.
"We continue to move our company in a forward direction, even in this challenging and competitive environment", said AML Foods President and CEO Gavin Watchorn in a press statement released yesterday. "The past 18 months have been very exciting for us, opening three new stores and growing our company's sales base significantly. Now, we are in a period of focusing on the fundamentals of our business and we will channel our energies towards improving our day to day operations."
The company also recorded a total sales increase of $8.03 million or 26.3 percent for the quarter and $29.48 million year-to-date or 29.9 percent
Total dividends of $926,000 were paid out year-to-date, $618,000 in May 2012 and $308,000 in January 2013.
Gross margin dollars for the quarter were $11.4 million or 29.6 percent of sales, reflecting an increase of $2.37 million or 26.3 percent over the same period in the prior year. Year-to-date gross margin dollars were $38.11 million or 29.7 percent of sales, an increase of $8.9 million or 30.5 percent over the prior year.
Selling, general and administrative expenses (SG&A) for the quarter increased by $2.04 million or 26.1 percent due to the addition of new stores. Year-to-date SG&A expenses increased by $7.78 million or 28.6 percent primarily due to the addition of new stores as well as some same store expense increases in utilities and repairs and maintenance. SG&A as a percentage of sales decreased year-to-date from 27.6 percent to 27.3 percent.
Watchorn further stated, "With so much of our resources directed towards expansion, we have been somewhat distracted from our core functions. We have spent the first quarter focusing on improving our customer service, product consistency levels and shrink. I expect that we will see the benefits of this focus in our results in 2013."
AML Foods Chairman Dionisio D'Aguilar added, "The economic environment that we are currently operating in continues to be challenging and highly competitive. The grocery business is being overbuilt, once again. This will lead to an overly competitive environment in the foreseeable future as different stores tussle for market share.
"In addition, high utility costs continue to impact businesses' ability to yield expected returns. However, despite these issues, we are confident that we will continue to record improvements in our returns to our shareholders in 2013, with expected profits of $3.5 million to $4.0 million."
He continued, "Our company has responded to these challenges by refocusing on the core fundamentals of our business, customer service, product consistency and shrink control. We are committed to our customers in all of our brands and believe that we deliver on both quality and value everyday to our many loyal customers."
D'Aguilar announced a final dividend of $0.04 per share, payable on May 3, 2013 to shareholders on record of April 26, 2013. This will result in a total dividend payment of $0.06 per ordinary share for 2012, a 50 percent increase over prior years.
Earlier this year, AML Foods Limited announced its decision to delay the opening of its first Carl's Jr. store due to the current economic environment. It expects to recommence this project in the latter part of 2013.