Switzerland's largest retail concern, Migros, reported a 32 per cent drop in profit last year, despite record sales of SFr20 billion ($12.46 billion).
The group on Thursday reported net income of SFr285 million, compared with SFr419 million in 2000.
Migros said the fall in profit was due to a decline in revenue from financial operations and to making provisions of SFr100 million.
Operating profit for 2001 shot up by 20 per cent, or SFr81 million, to SFr488 million.
"Migros in 2001 increased sales solidly by more than SFr500 million. It was clearly more efficient at the operational level," chairman of the cooperative group Anton Scherrer told a news conference in Zurich.
With its 581 points of sales, turnover per square metre in its supermarkets was SFr15,166 last year.
Scherrer said that despite economic uncertainties, the consumption climate remained strong with Migros enjoying a 16 per cent retail market share (18 per cent including its subsidiary Globus department stores).
"We can say that Migros maintained the rhythm of growth last year... and developed its already strong financial base," he said.
Migros, which has introduced a new structure clearly separating administration from management, said it would continue its role as a cooperative.
No alcohol or tobacco
Migros, which traditionally sells neither alcohol nor tobacco because of the principles of its founder Gottlieb Duttweiler, spends one per cent of its annual turnover on promoting cultural life in Switzerland.
Scherrer also referred to the "pleasing" growth in the group's leisure business, with Migros now having 23 wellness centres and five golf courses.
He said sales this year were progressing well in most areas of the business and were in line with their budgets.
"We anticipate this year we can achieve sales growth of two to three per cent for the group as whole. If no serious unforeseen event occurs, we believe that the bottom line can be greatly improved," he said.
Migros owns the up-market Globus group, the Ex Libris chain, the Hotelplan travel company, the Migrol oil and petrol business and the Migros Bank.
The group's main competitor, Coop, last month announced that it had increased market share in its retail business by 0.6 per cent to 14.6 per cent.
Coop profit in 2001 was SFr302 million on increased sales (4.3 per cent) of SFr13.6 billion.
swissinfo with agencies