Ahold reports Q3 earnings, unveils growth strategies

AMSTERDAM — Dutch supermarket operator Royal Ahold reported sales of $9.3 billion and profits of $347.8 million in third quarter 2011, the company said.

Those figures represented a 2.5% increase in sales and a 15.2% increase in profits over third quarter 2010.

The company's Ahold USA division — comprised of the Stop & Shop, Giant-Carlisle and Giant-Landover chains and the Peapod online grocery delivery service — had sales of $5.8 billion, an 8.5% increase over third quarter 2010. For the year so far, sales were $19.2 billion, a 7.1% increase over the first three quarters of fiscal year 2010.

The company operated 757 stores in the United States at the end of the quarter, compared with 746 at the end of third quarter 2010, and 751 at the end of fiscal year 2010.

At a conference with investors Monday, CEO Dick Boer unveiled "six strategic pillars" to accelerate growth in the company. These included an expansion of store formats and the company's online business, including a test in early 2012 of a system that will allow customers in Europe and the United States to order items online and pick them up at designated locations; an expansion of the company's geographic reach, particularly in Europe, but also in the United States; a three-year, 350 million Euro cost-reduction program; programs to increase customer loyalty; programs to develop employees' skills and capabilities; and charitable programs.