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Metro sees profit and sales climb despite labour conflict, mild cold and flu season

A Metro store is seen Monday, April 15, 2019 in Ste-Therese, Que., north of Montreal. Metro Inc. reported its second-quarter profit rose from a year ago and sales climbed as shoppers began stocking up due to the pandemic during the last two weeks of the period. Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Against headwinds from a labour conflict and a mild cold and flu season, grocery and pharmacy retailer Metro Inc. reported Tuesday its first-quarter sales and profit climbed compared with a year ago.

The company, which includes the Metro grocery store chain and Jean Coutu drugstores, said food same-store sales were up 10 per cent for the 12-week period ended Dec. 19.

But pharmacy sales edged up only slightly, dragged down by a 3.8 per cent drop in front-store sales as measures to curb COVID-19 reduced in-store traffic as well as demand for cough and cold products.

Also, Metro said its warehouse sales to franchisees were hurt by the labour conflict at a Jean Coutu distribution centre in Quebec, which had a dampening effect on the company’s overall sales.

READ MORE: Metro sales up more than 10% as Canadians eat at home due to COVID-19 pandemic

Metro president and CEO Eric La Fleche said the company delivered strong food sales with good operating leverage “while working through an eight-week labour conflict.”

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“Our contingency plan enabled us to successfully maintain the supply of medication to over 400 pharmacies,” he said in statement. “We are now back to normal operating conditions in the distribution centre.”

In reporting its results, the grocery and pharmacy retailer also raised its quarterly dividend to 25 cents per share, up from 22.5 cents.

Metro said it earned $191.2 million or 76 cents per diluted share for its first quarter, up from a profit of $170.2 million or 67 cents per diluted share in the same quarter a year earlier.

Sales for the quarter totalled $4.28 billion, up from $4.03 billion a year earlier.

On an adjusted basis, Metro said it earned 79 cents per share for the quarter, up from an adjusted profit of 71 cents per share a year ago.

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