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LAKELAND, FL-Locally based Publix Super Markets Inc. says its earnings last year increased nearly 7% to $1.2 billion, while sales throughout 2009 increased 1.6% to $24.3 billion. The regional grocer plans to open 34 stores this year after opening 48 and closing 27 last year.

For the fourth quarter, Publix’s sales increased 1% to $6.1 billion, while earnings fell 14% to $284.2 million. Comparable store sales declined 2.5% for the quarter and 3.2% for the year.

Publix CEO Ed Crenshaw stated in a release that operating results were favorable despite what he termed as a “difficult economic environment.” Besides the recession, comparable store sales were affected by the opening of newer stores near existing locations, in particular conversions acquired from Boise, ID-based Albertsons LLC.

Publix has more than 1,000 stores, mostly in Florida but also in Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee. It remains the dominant grocer in its home state with 41.6% market share, according to a recent report by the International Council of Shopping Centers.

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