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    Casey's First Quarter Underscores Growth

    Same-store sales climbed 4.7 percent, and total sales grew 5.5 percent.

    ANKENY, Iowa -- Casey’s General Stores Inc. released its earning report for the first quarter of fiscal 2009, highlighting a total sales increase of 22.4 percent from the previous first quarter, to $1.6 billion, while gross profits increased 5.7 percent to $199 million.

    "The company had a strong first quarter," Casey’s Chief Financial Officer William Walljasper said during a conference call. "The strong performance was a result of higher than normal cost margins and solid sales inside our stores."

    President and Chief Operating Officer Robert Myers noted the results include a charge of $2.6 million related to flood damages. "If these costs were eliminated, our earnings [per share] would have exceeded the record high $0.59 we reported a year ago," Myers said in a statement. "We achieved excellent growth in a challenging economy, and our results give us a solid start toward our fiscal 2009 performance goals."

    Walljasper said same-store gallons sold were up 0.5 percent with an average margin of 15.6 cents per gallon. The average retail price per gallon was $3.77, which is an increase of 26.1 percent from the same quarter last year. "Customer counts remained positive, but high retail prices continued to have an impact on gallons sold," Myers said in a statement.

    Casey’s same-store sales climbed 4.7 percent, while total sales increased 5.5 percent to $274 million. Gross profit rose 5.7 percent to $93.3 million.

    "We placed an emphasis on having the right product at the right time of day," Walljasper said during the conference call, adding the beverage category experienced higher than average margins.

    In the prepared food segment, same-store sales were up 12.3 percent, total sales rose 13.4 percent to $85.6 million, and the average margin was 60.5 percent.

    "Casey’s prepared foods are destination items for our customers, and we make sure our warmers are full of the products they want when they want them," Myers said in a statement.

    However, he added: "Higher prices for cheese and other commodities affected our margin; nevertheless, we increased gross profit 11.3 percent to $51.8 million. We are confident of our core strategies for managing this category. We will continue to test new menu offerings and marketing initiatives throughout the year and use point-of-sale data to assess their impact."

    With regards to growth and expansion, Myers said the goal for fiscal 2009 is to increase the total number of Casey’s stores by 4 percent. The company opened seven stores by the end of the first quarter. All of the openings, he noted, were acquisitions.

    "We know acquisitions are a cost-effective way to grow, and we will continue to pursue these opportunities," Myers said in a statement. "New-store construction will accelerate in the coming months as we roll out our new store design, developed specifically to accommodate more customer traffic, make our service areas more appealing, and enhance the sale of high-margin items."

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