Promotions, inflation drive Publix Q3 sales.

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Comparable store sales at Publix Super Markets increased by 5% in the fiscal third quarter, but increased promotional activity and holding back of cost inflation drove margins down slightly.

The Lakeland, Fla., retailer said sales for the period, which ended Sept. 28, totaled $7.4 billion, a 5.2% increase from the same period a year ago. Comps were driven by increased customer counts refelecting an improving economic environment, as well as product cost increases.

Gross profits as a percent of sales in the quarter was 26.9%, down from 27.4% in the third quarter last year, Publix said. The decrease was due primarily to increases in promotional activity and product cost increases that were not passed along to customers. Quarterly net earnings of $356.3 million increased by 6.8%.

Year to date, Publix sales of $22.7 billion are up 5.3% and net earnings are up by 4.8% to $1.3 billion. Publix stock, which is available only to associates and board members, decreased from $33.85 per share to $33.80.

“I’m pleased that our Publix associates delivered strong results,” Publix CEO Ed Crenshaw said in a statement. “Unfortunately, these results were not enough to offset challenges in the stock market.”

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