The Globe and Mail reports in its Thursday edition that Empire has seen buying behaviours shift, with customers visiting its FreshCo discount banner more often than they were a year ago, along with "trading down" by buying cheaper private-label products, or opting for chicken in place of beef, for example. The Globe's Susan Krashinsky Robertson writes that Empire says impulse purchases are also down. Empire posted earnings on the same day that Statistics Canada released the latest inflation numbers, showing that grocery prices rose by 9.7 per cent in May compared with a year ago, and matching the increase reported for April. Chief executive officer Michael Medline says: "People only have so much money. They have to make harder choices." Empire saw both sales and profits increase in the fourth quarter. The company reported net earnings of $178.5-million or 68 cents a share in the quarter. That compared with $171.9-million or 64 cents a share in the same period last year. Empire announced a 10-per-cent increase to its quarterly dividend paid to shareholders, to 16.5 cents a share. Sales rose by 13.3 per cent to $7.8-billion in the 14 weeks ended May 7, compared with $6.9-billion in the 13-week period in 2021.
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