LISTED Metro Retail Stores Group, Inc. saw a 16% decline in its first-quarter net income to P50.3 million, attributed to narrower profit margins resulting from a reduced contribution from the general merchandise segment.

 Net sales rose by 4.8% to P8.7 billion, the highest recorded first-quarter sales since Metro Retail’s public listing in 2015, Metro Retail said in a statement to the stock exchange on Monday.

Comparable sales during the period were also up by 2.8%.

 Among sectors, food retail climbed by 7.9% on strong sales of basic groceries while general merchandise dropped by 2.9% amid spending constraint on discretionary items due to persistent high inflation.

 With the reduced share to business of general merchandise, Metro Retail’s first-quarter blended gross margin fell to 20.8% from 21.9% last year.

 Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization declined by 5.1% to P389.2 million from P410.2 million on lower margins.

 In January, Metro Retail opened a Metro Value Mart in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu, bringing its current network to 64 stores. It also had the groundbreaking of five supermarkets in Cebu and Leyte to boost its presence in Visayas.

 Metro Retail recently launched its 10-hectare Metro Distribution Center in Sta. Rosa, Laguna that seeks to strengthen the company’s logistics system and lays the foundation for the expansion pipeline throughout Luzon in the next few years.

 “Looking ahead to 2024, we are poised for growth with cautious optimism,” Metro Retail President and Chief Operating Officer Manuel C. Alberto said.

 “Our strategic plans are geared towards calibrated expansion, enhancing our online presence, and continuing to modernize our stores,” he added.

 Metro Retail operates various store formats such as Metro Supermarket, Metro Department Store, Super Metro Hypermarket, and Metro Value Mart.

 On Monday, Metro Retail shares were unchanged at P1.30 apiece. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave