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Quick Hits: 99 Cent Stores Now Charging 99.99 Cents


Brief scrutiny of today's headlines.

Yogi Berra, former All-Star catcher for the New York Yankees and acknowledged national treasure, said it best: "A nickel ain't worth a dime anymore."

Damned inflation. Stinkin' fuel prices. Crummy shrinking margins.

But what's really rattling sensibilities is that prices at 99 Cents Only (NDN) stores are going up.

However, the chain, which has about 280 stores in Arizona, California, Nevada and Texas, won't have to put up new signs. Prices for household items will remain just below the buck barrier, at 99.99 cents. (Not a typo.)

That less-than-a-penny increase was the chain's first price hike in its 26-year history.

In August, the company said first quarter 2009 net sales increased 4.1% to $304.9 million, but gross margin fell. This resulted in a net loss of $1.5 million, or $0.02 per share, compared with a profit of $3 million, or $0.04 share, for the same period last year.

"In the...first quarter of fiscal 2009...we faced several major challenges, including pressures from rising food and commodity prices, minimum wage increases and higher fuel costs," CEO Eric Schiffer said in a prepared statement. "…Our store operations team offset minimum wage increases through store labor productivity improvements. Our distribution and transportation team held their costs flat as a percentage of sales in the face of significantly higher fuel prices."

The discount retailer's competitors include Dollar Tree (DLTR), Family Dollar Stores (FDO) and Dollar General, which was taken private by KKR and Goldman Sachs in 2007.
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