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Susser Holdings Sets Several Records in Fourth Quarter

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Susser Holdings Corp.’s Stripes convenience stores had a banner 2012 fiscal fourth quarter, highlighted by many company records, said Steve DeSutter, the company’s president of retail.

Stripes opened a record 10 stores in the quarter ended Dec. 30. The new stores average 6,200 square feet, DeSutter noted during Susser Holdings' fourth-quarter earnings call this morning.

Susser Holdings ranks 14th on this year's Convenience Store News Top 20 Growth Chains list.

"We expect to open 29 to 35 new stores in 2013," DeSutter said on the earnings call. "Four are planned to open in the first quarter, including one that already opened in February."

In addition, the c-store chain had a 21.1-cent profit margin per gallon, another record achieved during the quarter.

Overall, Susser Holdings enjoyed a robust fourth quarter. Net profits doubled to $10.6 million vs. a profit of $5.3 million in Susser's 2011 fourth quarter. A 5.8-percent increase in same-store merchandise sales was cited as the main reason for the profit rise.

"We saw increased traffic flow and a larger basket size in the fourth quarter," relayed DeSutter. "Foodservice accounted for 21 percent of our merchandise sales and 30 percent of our merchandise gross profit."

Specifically, a new tamale offering at its Laredo Taco Co. quick-service restaurants, located inside 338 Stripes locations, offered a large foodservice lift, the retail director said.

While expressing his happiness over the company’s outstanding fourth quarter and full 2012 fiscal year, Sam Susser, president and CEO of Susser Holdings, acknowledged that the company does face some challenges ahead. Sequestration -- a massive number of government budget cuts that could go into effect on March 1 -- would dramatically reduce government military spending, and that could affect sales at Stripes stores because several are located near military bases, the chief executive noted.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act -- known as Obamacare -- is another obstacle affecting many retailers. The health care law mandates that all businesses with more than 50 full-time-equivalent workers (30 hours per week or more) will be required to offer health care coverage or pay a $2,000-per person penalty beyond the first 30 employees.

"We are still actively working on Obamacare," the CEO said. "It's still evolving. We are currently looking for options."

Increased payroll taxes that began on Jan. 1 are another factor affecting retail sales, Susser stated during the earnings call. "We saw some 'bobbling' in consumer spending at the beginning of this year," he said. "We are now getting back to a normal state."

Corpus Christi, Texas-based Susser Holdings Corp. operated 559 convenience stores as of Dec. 30.

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