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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas -- Susser Holdings Corporation reported same-store merchandise sales for the fourth quarter of 2010 increased by 7.3 percent, compared with growth of 3.4 percent in the third quarter and a decline of 1.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009. Retail net merchandise margin for the three months ended Jan. 2, 2011, was 33.8 percent, which was unchanged from the prior quarter but up from 32.7 percent a year earlier.
Average retail gallons per store per week increased 4.3 percent from a year ago. Retail fuel margins for the fourth quarter were 15.0 cents per gallon, versus 22.8 cents in the third quarter and 11.9 cents in the fourth quarter of 2009.
"For the fourth quarter, we continued to improve both same-store merchandise sales and fuel volumes, which reflect the strengthening economy in the markets directly impacted by oil and gas drilling activity and strong agricultural commodity prices, as well as the success of rebranding the legacy Town & Country stores to the Stripes banner," Sam L. Susser, president and CEO said in a released statement.
Adjusted EBITDA in the fourth quarter totaled $24.1 million, compared with $15.0 million a year ago, an increase of 61.3 percent, which is the result of increased same-store merchandise sales and higher fuel and merchandise margins versus a year ago, combined with targeted expense reductions. (The company noted that the fourth quarter of 2009 included one additional week of operations, which it estimated to contribute approximately $1.7 million to $1.8 million of additional Adjusted EBITDA for the prior year.) Companywide gross profit totaled $112.2 million, up 9.4 percent compared to last year's fourth quarter.
Total revenues increased 9.4 percent versus the fourth quarter of last year to $1.0 billion, which reflects a 12.2 percent increase in combined retail and wholesale fuel revenues, partly offset by a 0.7 percent decrease in total merchandise sales. The lower merchandise sales in 2010 are primarily due to the impact of the 14th week of sales in the fourth quarter of 2009, which increased prior-year merchandise sales and operating expenses by approximately $14.0 million and $4.5 million, respectively.
"We continued to see improving trends in both customer counts and average transaction size during the fourth quarter. As the recovery gains momentum in 2011, we expect to see additional growth in both merchandise and fuel volumes, although we do not expect to match the unusually strong fuel margins of 2010," added Susser.
Susser Holdings added seven large format retail stores during the fourth quarter, converted three retail stores to dealer operations and closed three smaller underperforming stores, bringing the total number of retail stores in operation at year-end to 526. For the full year, the company built 12 new stores and acquired two others. Currently, it has six stores under construction, two of which are expected to open during the first quarter of 2011.
"We are extremely well positioned for growth geographically," stated Susser. "Several of our market areas enjoy some of the best demographics for growth of anywhere in the United States. We feel better about the local economies today than we did a year ago, and we remain confident of our long-term positive outlook for investment in this region."
Meanwhile, for the full year 2010 ended Jan. 2, 2011, Susser reported same-store merchandise sales growth of 4.0 percent and total merchandise sales of $806.3 million, up 6.5 percent from fiscal 2009, excluding the impact of the 53rd week of merchandise sales in 2009 and the divested Village Market sales.
Adjusted EBITDA reached a record $120.0 million, up 30.1 percent from 2009. Gross profit increased 10.7 percent to $473.1 million, driven primarily by the 29 percent increase in gross profit on both retail and wholesale fuel as well as slightly higher merchandise gross profit. Total revenues were $3.9 billion, up 18.8 percent, primarily as a result of higher fuel selling prices as well as increased merchandise sales.
"Following a challenging 2009, we set a new all-time record for Adjusted EBITDA in fiscal 2010, driven by unusually strong fuel margins, steady same-store growth in merchandise sales and careful expense control," Susser stated.