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Family Dollar in fighting trim

Matthews, N.C. -- Climbing back on track, helped by stepped-up sales of food and new merchandising programs, Family Dollar Stores pushed fourth-fiscal quarter profits up by 32.8% to $38.8 million from $29.2 million last year.

Sales at the neighborhood retailer rose by 10.4%, to $1.6 billion from $1.4 billion, while same-store sales improved by 4.9%. After installing coolers in more stores, rolling out Treasure Hunt merchandise programs and refining its Urban Initiative, customer count was off slightly, by 0.5%, but the average transaction price climbed by 5.2%, to $9.45, the low-cost retailer said.

"Two years ago, Family Dollar began aggressively investing" in all three programs to boost sales and profitability," said Howard Levine, chairman and ceo. "These investments provided the foundation for this year's improved results."

The company also boosted gross margins while cutting overhead – and grew sales while trimming inventory.

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