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(Carl Cronan is editor of Real Estate Florida.)

LAKELAND, FL-Locally based Publix Super Markets Inc. posted first-quarter sales of $6.4 billion, a 2.2% increase from the same quarter last year. The addition of dozens of stores in Florida and other Southeastern states contributed to the boost, while comparable-store sales were down nearly 3% from a year ago.

Publix reached its 1,000-store milestone earlier this year and has plans to open 32 more stores in 2009. The privately held grocer is in the process or reopening 49 stores acquired from Boise, ID-based Albertsons LLC throughout Florida last year.

Net earnings for this year’s first quarter were $321.5 million, down 6% from $343.2 million during the same three months in 2008. The value of Publix’s stock, which is traded only among company employees and directors, declined 3% over the year to $15.55 per share.

“The economy continues to affect our results and stock price,” Publix CEO Ed Crenshaw stated in a release. “We look forward to an improving economy.”

Publix, which posted $23.9 billion in sales last year, commands 40% market share among all grocers operating within Florida. The chain has additional stores in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina.

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