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REORGANIZED PENN TRAFFIC FACES UPHILL BATTLE TO PROFITABILITY

The recently reorganized Penn Traffic Co. Wednesday reported second-quarter results that show the Syracuse-based food retailer still has long way to go to reach profitability.

The parent company of area Quality supermarkets reported revenues for the quarter, which ended July 31, dropped 13.4 percent, from $730.2 million, to $632.7 million. Same store sales fell 1.1 percent during the quarter.

Penn Traffic, which completed its reorganization efforts during the second quarter, has adopted what its terms "fresh start reporting," a recounting of the company's fiscal activity that does not allow a year-to-year comparison of results for the just-completed quarter. Because the food company operated under its new structure for only five weeks during the reporting period, no per share loss or gain comparisons can be made at this time. During that June 26 to July 31 period, however, Penn Traffic lost $8.8 million.

Joseph V. Fisher, Penn Traffic's president and chief executive officer, said while revenues continued to tumble in the latest quarter, there are indications that the reorganized company is on an upswing.

"Our sales have improved from the first quarter to the second quarter, leading to substantially less negative same store sales trends," Fisher said. "We are pleased with the progress our company is making in attaining its strategic goal, which include improving sales, margins, cash flow -- and most importantly -- our customers' shopping experience."

The Penn Traffic chief cited changes in merchandising, store operations and promotional practices as some of the steps the company is taking to lure customers back to its stores.

Locally, Quality shoppers can look forward to a slate of capital improvements at the company's stores over the next 18 months, according to Gary D. Hirsch, chairman of Penn Traffic's executive committee.

Without listing improvements for specific stores, Hirsch said the company's $100 million capital program, which will be spread over its four supermarket chains -- Quality, P&C, Bi-Lo and Big Bear, "will include renovations, enlargements and replacement stores."

Quality Markets is the Buffalo area's No. 4 ranked supermarket chain, running distantly behind Tops, Wegmans and Jubilee. The chain has been steadily closing stores in this market, including stores in Hamburg, Amherst and West Seneca which closed in late March, and an East Aurora location that closed in January.

The company, which once operated 15 markets in Erie and Niagara Counties, now runs seven.

Penn Traffic also announced its stock will once again be traded on Wall Street. After 10 months of being traded on an over-the-counter basis, the stock began trading on the Nasdaq stock market Wednesday morning under the trading symbol "PNFT."

In its first day of Nasdaq trading the company's stock closed $8.75, down 25 cents.

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