PRESS RELEASE: FEBRUARY 24, 2011

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Loblaw president steps down


Allan Leighton, the hard-driving British retail executive, is stepping aside as president and deputy chairman of Canada's largest supermarket operator.
The announcement was made as Loblaw Companies Ltd. reported profit declined 10 per cent and sales fell 2 per cent in the latest three month period.
Leighton will be succeeded by a senior executive from one of Europe's largest food distributors, Carrefour, the company said.
Vicente Trius, 53, a native of Spain, has also held senior positions in Europe at Wal-Mart, a growing rival in the Canadian grocery business.
Leighton will resume his role as long-time business advisor to the Weston family, which is the majority owner of the grocery chain.
"We are in the final year of renewal and I am delighted that Vicente Trius will be my successor. I will work to ensure a smooth handover to his leadership," Leighton said in a statement.
Leighton joined Loblaw's management team during a critical succession period as the chairman at the time, Galen Weston Sr., handed the reigns over to his then 34-year-old son Galen G. Weston.
Wal-Mart had entered the fresh food business in Canada sparking a period of upheaval and intense price competition that continues to challenge the industry.
Loblaw countered by building larger stores that carried more general merchandise.
But the strategy failed to gain traction, particularly in Ontario and Loblaw retrenched.
A day earlier, Leighton outlined a strategy for the retailer that would focus on building its market share in clothing, health and beauty products and the ethnic market, in addition to food.
The company's exclusive clothing line, Joe Fresh, will open stand-alone stores this year in Canada and the U.S.
Sales in the latest quarter were $7.16 billion, down 2 per cent, while net earnings were $151 million, down 10 per cent, to 54 cents a share. Sales at stores open more than a year, considered a key measure of retail performance, declined 1.6 per cent.
"2010 was another year of real progress towards completing our renewal plan," Weston said in a statement.
"In the year ahead, we expect to continue our focus on executing the plan in a market environment that remains unpredictable and competitively intense."

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