LOS ANGELES —Alfred A. Plamann, president and chief executive officer, Unified Western Grocers, told shareholders attending the company's March 11, 2003 annual meeting here that despite a difficult and challenging business environment, he is optimistic about the future for Unified and the independent retail grocers that Unified serves.
Reporting on the company's progress during the fiscal year ended September 28, 2002, Plamann said that Unified's core distribution business remained strong and robust despite negative pressure from store closures, increased retail competition, lower average case values and the weakness of the nation's economy. At the end of the fiscal year, Unified's sales volume was $2.79 billion, which represented an improvement over the prior year.
Another accomplishment for Unified in 2002, according to Plamann, was a continued reduction in operating costs that was achieved without any disruption to the firm's reputation for outstanding service. He said that despite reductions in inventory and expenses throughout the company, service levels remained at traditionally high levels.
Plamann also credited Unified's Board of Directors for taking action that he said will "provide the company with an immediate financial boost and keep it healthy and aggressively competitive for a great many years to come." The Board actions, cited, by Plamann, were:
• A decision to complete Unified's exit from its remaining retail business during 2003;
• The adoption of an "Equity Enhancement Plan," a program that increases the amount of equity capital invested in the company by shareholders and provides the cooperative with a better mechanism for retaining earnings; and
• A decision to include three non-member outside directors on Unified's Board of Directors.
"Our year-end results reflected some very significant improvements over the prior year," Plamann said. "We ended the year in strong fiscal shape and we are now in position to capitalize on any new opportunities that may materialize in the months and years ahead."
Although he said that the grocery industry is getting more competitive and complex with each passing day, Plamann also said that he believes there has never been a better time to be an independent grocer. In addition to industry data showing independents increasing market share in several Western U.S. cities, Plamann highlighted several of Unified's member retailers whose businesses are growing in spite of a weak economy, increased competition and other concerns.
"I'm optimistic about the future for independents and Unified Western Grocers," Plamann said. "In the past year, we were able to achieve a solid performance, strengthen the company for the long haul and position it for significant growth in the future. At the same time, our members are continuing to grow and expand their businesses, capture market share and are targeting new areas for growth."
Unified Western Grocers, Inc. is a retailer-owned grocery distributor that supplies independent retailers throughout the Western United States. Unified and its subsidiaries, which generated approximately $2.8 billion in sales during the 2002 fiscal year, offer independent retailers all the resources they need to compete in the supermarket industry.
This press release contains forward-looking statements with respect to benefits expected to be derived from the proposed acquisition. There are a variety of factors which could cause actual results to differ materially from those anticipated by the statements above. These factors are outlined in Unified's Form 10-Q and other interim reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Furthermore, Unified undertakes no obligation to update, amend or clarify forward-looking statements whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise.