Metro faces a constant shortage of workers, higher overtime wages

Workers at Metro Inc. is working overtime to keep stores open as the company grapples with the ongoing labor situation, the Montreal-based grocery and pharmacy retailer said Wednesday.

“There are a lot of open positions and there aren’t enough people to fill them,” Metro President and CEO Eric La Fleche said on the call to discuss the company’s third-quarter results.

He said there were “more open positions than we normally do” but declined to provide the exact number of vacancies across the company’s warehouses and stores, which include regular supermarkets like Metro and Metro. Plus, the discount grocery chain Super C in Quebec and Basic Foods in Ontario, as well as Jean Coutu and Brunet pharmacies.

“The labor shortage is putting pressure on … as it increases the overtime to supply our stores,” said La Fleche. “We have a higher percentage of overtime than we used to.”

His comments came as the grocery retailer reported third-quarter profit of $275 million, up from $252.4 million a year earlier, when sales rose 2.5%.

Profit amounted to $1.14 per diluted share for the period ended July 2, up from 1.03 cents per diluted share a year earlier.

Total sales came in at $5.87 billion, up from $5.72 billion, as in-store food sales rose 1.1% and drug store sales rose 7.2%.

On an adjusted basis, Metro said it earned 1.18 cents per diluted share for the quarter, up from $1.06 per diluted share a year earlier.

Grocery sellers warn that inflationary pressures are under way and labor shortages could start to weigh on profits.

“If high inflation and high prices continue, it will continue to put pressure on margins,” said Metro CFO Francois Thibault.

For now, high margins in the company’s pharmaceuticals division have offset falling food gross margins, he said.

“We had very strong in-store sales in our pharmacy business in Jean Coutu and Brunet this quarter,” said La Fleche. “Over-the-counter cough and cold products are flying”.

Metro also said it expects in-store food sales to grow at a higher rate than in recent quarters and that prescription growth at its pharmacies is moderate.

This Canadian Press report was first published on August 10, 2022.

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