METRO RETAIL Stores Group, Inc. (MRSGI) saw its earnings dip by 1.2% in 2018, weighed down by a fire that razed one of its department stores and supermarkets early last year.

The Gaisano-led firm said in a regulatory filing that net income went down to P965.4 million, after revenues dropped 5.75% to P33.28 billion during the period.

Net sales declined by 5.6% to P33.05 billion, while rental income plunged 22% to P233.8 million.

MRSGI attributed the slowdown to the damage brought about by the fire that lasted for two days in Ayala Center Cebu last January 2018, dampening the positive performance of other stores. Despite the closure, the company managed to open a temporary supermarket covering 900 square meters in the same area three months after the incident.

Same-store sales growth, meanwhile, stood at 5.1%, translating to a 110-basis-point improvement in same-store gross profit margins versus the 2017 figure.

The listed firm also noted that gross profit margins registered a 60-basis-point increase due to different initiatives such as improvements in inventory and margin productivity, price competitiveness, and merchandise assortment.

“Despite the adversities we faced, our results reflect our ongoing success in delivering broad and compelling assortment of goods and merchandise to today’s value-driven shoppers,” MRSGI Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Frank S. Gaisano said in a statement.

“Our healthy bottom line figures demonstrate the efficacy of our business strategies that have aided us in being resilient over internal and external tremors,” he added.

MRSGI said it will complete the reconstruction of its store in Metro Ayala Cebu by the second half of the year. It has also recently opened Metro Department Store and Supermarket at Ayala Malls Feliz in Pasig City and at Ayala Capitol in Bacolod City.

The company currently operates 54 stores in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, South Luzon, as well as Central, Western, and Eastern Visayas in department store, supermarket, and hypermarket formats.

By 2020, the company looks to have a gross floor area (GFA) of 800,000 sq.m., about double its GFA back in 2015. MRSGI earlier said it committed to spend P10 billion to reach this target.

Shares in MRSGI plunged 4% or 13 centavos to close at P3.12 apiece at the stock exchange on Thursday. — Arra B. Francia