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Empire Q2 profit and sales up, plans online grocery expansion in Alberta

Sobeys' parent company will introduce the province to Voilà as e-grocery sales in Canada continue to grow

Empire Co. Ltd. reported its second-quarter profit and sales rose compared with a year ago as it announced plans to expand its Voilà online grocery service to Alberta.

The company behind the Sobeys grocery store chain says it will launch Voilà curbside pickup service in Alberta next year before starting home delivery service from a new customer fulfilment centre to be built in Calgary in 2023.

The announcement came as Empire reported a profit of $161.4 million, or 60 cents per share, for the quarter ended Oct. 31, compared with a profit of $154.6 million, or 57 cents per share, a year earlier when the results were boosted by unusually large property disposals by Crombie Real Estate Investment Trust that added six cents per share.

Sales in the quarter totalled nearly $6.98 billion, up from nearly $6.44 billion in the same quarter last year. Same-store sales were up 7.3%. Excluding fuel, same-store sales were up 8.7%.

Analysts on average had expected a profit of 65 cents per share for the quarter and $6.93 billion in sales, according to financial data firm Refinitiv.

Empire's planned e-commerce expansion in Alberta comes as online grocery sales in Canada continue to grow, although at a slower pace than at the start of the pandemic, the company said in a news release.

Empire's e-commerce business saw growth of 241% in the second quarter compared to the prior year, as a second wave of virus cases led to new lockdown measures in many parts of the country.

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