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Liquor Stores N.A. Ltd. Reports Second Quarter Financial Results

3.7% Same-Store Sales Growth and 7.5% Increase in Gross Margin $'s Over Prior Year

EDMONTON, ALBERTA -- (Marketwired) -- 08/14/14 -- Liquor Stores N.A. Ltd. (the "Company" or "Liquor Stores") (TSX:LIQ), North America's largest publicly traded liquor retailer, today reported its results for the three and six months ended June 30, 2014.

SUMMARY OPERATIONAL RESULTS

Three months ended June 30, 2014


--  Consolidated sales increased 6.3% to $178.2 million (Q2 2013 - $167.7
    million); 
--  Same-store sales increased by 4.4% in Canada ($5.3 million) and
    increased by 1.3% in the U.S. ($0.5 million). Adjusting for the calendar
    shift in Easter, same-store sales in Canada increased by 2.5% and
    increased by 0.3% in the U.S.; 
--  Gross margin increased 30bps to 25.1% (2013 - 24.8%); and 
--  Adjusted operating margin(1) decreased by $1.1 million to $10.6 million
    (Q2 2013 - $11.7 million), as a result of the ongoing investments to
    support the Company's business strategies, offset by the increased
    margin from the higher same-store sales and the calendar shift in
    Easter.
    ( 1) Adjusted operating margin is a non-IFRS measure that does not have
    any standardized meaning prescribed by IFRS. For more information on
    non-IFRS measures see the 'Non-IFRS Measures' section of this MD&A. 

Six Months Ended June 30, 2014


--  Consolidated sales increased 3.8% to $315.5 million (2013 - $304.0
    million); 
--  Same-store sales increased by 1.3% in Canada ($2.9 million) and U.S.
    same-store sales were consistent with the prior year; 
--  Gross margin decreased 30bps to 24.9% (2013 - 25.2%); and 
--  Adjusted operating margin decreased by $6.6 million to $11.6 million
    (2013 - $18.2 million), primarily as a result of: 
    --  Temporary reductions in gross margin as a percentage of sales in the
        first four months of 2014, including sales of clearance inventory
        and the upfront investment to launch our new digital marketing
        program (the Celebration Club), 
    --  Competitive pressures in certain regions where we have implemented
        more competitive pricing to gain back market share as has been
        reflected in our improved results for May and June 2014, and 
    --  Ongoing investments to support the Company's business strategies. 

Commenting on the Q2 2014 financial results, Stephen Bebis, President and CEO of the Company said: "After disappointing financial results in the first quarter of 2014, our second quarter results were back on track. We are pleased with our same-store sales growth in Canada and the United States, and the improvement in gross margins as a percentage of sales compared to prior year. As expected, our operating results are down from last year as we execute on our Seven Point plan. We expect a steady improvement in our operating margin going forward, as we realize benefits from the plan. We anticipate that the full positive earnings impact from the plan will be achieved starting in 2016."

"We have made significant progress during the quarter against our previously announced Seven Point plan to strengthen our operating platform and drive long-term growth in profitability," said Mr. Bebis. "Our new senior leadership team has hit the ground running as demonstrated by improved same-store sales and gross margins compared to the first quarter of 2014. In the second half of 2014, we'll continue to execute our Seven Point plan including: implementing product assortment plans, selling our new exclusive products that we take delivery of in the fall, improving our pricing and marketing strategies to build market share, continuing promotion of our digital marketing program, the Celebration Club, an opt-in customer database to support product and store marketing activities via email and social media, launching our formal training program called Liquor Stores University, and starting the planning and design phases of our new enterprise resource system."

SUMMARY FINANCIAL RESULTS AND ANALYSIS


----------------------------------------------------------------------------
(expressed in thousands of                                                  
 Canadian dollars)                Three months ended     Six months ended   
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                   June 30,   June 30,   June 30,   June 30,
                                       2014       2013       2014       2013
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Sales                             $ 178,168  $ 167,669  $ 315,543  $ 303,971
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Operating margin                    $ 9,256   $ 11,712   $ 10,252   $ 18,204
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Adjusted operating margin          $ 10,642   $ 11,712   $ 11,638   $ 18,204
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Net earnings                        $ 3,417    $ 5,321      $ 920    $ 6,778
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Diluted earnings per share           $ 0.14     $ 0.23     $ 0.04     $ 0.29
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Cash dividends per share             $ 0.27     $ 0.27     $ 0.54     $ 0.54
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Weighted average number of                                                  
 shares outstanding - Basic                                                 
 (000's)                             23,188     23,008     23,162     22,974
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Stores in operation as at June                                              
 30                                     245        245        245        245
----------------------------------------------------------------------------

The MD&A as well as the condensed interim consolidated financial statements and notes for the financial statements for the three and six months ended June 30, 2014 are available on the Company's website (www.liquorstoresna.ca) and on the SEDAR website (www.sedar.com).

SALES

Total sales increased by $10.5 million or 6.3% to $178.2 million in the second quarter of 2014 (Q2 2013 - $167.7 million). The increase is primarily the result of the sales contribution from same-stores in Canada, the calendar shift in Easter, new store expansion in the United States and Canada offsetting store closures in Canada (two new stores opened in the United States and four new stores opened in Canada, and nine stores closed since March 31, 2013), and a $2.8 million positive change in foreign exchange on the translation of U.S. dollar denominated sales to Canadian dollars.

Same-Store Sales


--  Canadian same-store sales increased by $5.3 million, or 4.4%. 
    --  Same-store sales were impacted positively by the calendar shift in
        Easter (late March 2013 to mid-April 2014). Management estimates
        that the impact of this calendar related event was approximately
        1.9%. 
    --  Canadian same-store sales in Q2 2014 were primarily impacted by
        changes to our pricing and marketing strategies. Historically, the
        Company has relied almost exclusively on price promotion through a
        flyer circulation program to drive customers to our stores and
        remain competitive. Consistent with our Seven Point plan, we have
        taken the initial steps to implement new pricing and promotion
        strategies, improve customer loyalty with the introduction of the
        Celebration Club, and increase brand promotion. In Q2 2014, as part
        of this change in strategy, we placed more emphasis on the use of
        various forms of media that have not been fully utilized previously
        by the Company. We believe that the use of multiple forms of media
        allows us to better target our customers and will allow us, in time,
        to focus more on brand promotion and customer loyalty programs.
        However, it will take time to realize the full benefits from these
        changes and we anticipate that our same-store sales growth in the
        interim may vary from quarter to quarter as we transition from
        flyers to these other forms of media and promotion. 
--  U.S. same-store sales increased by $0.5 million or 1.3%. 
    --  Management estimates that the calendar shift in Easter contributed
        approximately 1.0% to the U.S. same-store sales increase in the
        second quarter. 
    --  Same-store sales in the United States have been positively impacted
        by same-store sales growth in Kentucky. While we continue to be
        impacted by certain counties in Kentucky that have gone from 'dry'
        to 'wet' in recent periods, we believe that changes to our pricing
        and marketing strategies and the introduction of store level
        training programs during the latter half of 2013 and early 2014 have
        assisted in allowing us to compete more effectively. 

MARGINS

For the three months ended June 30, 2014, gross margin was $44.7 million, up 7.6% from $41.6 million for the same period last year. The increase in gross margin was primarily attributable to the improvement in Canadian same-store sales ($1.0 million, excluding the effect of Easter), the calendar shift in Easter ($0.7 million), an improvement in gross margin as a percentage of sales to 25.1% (2013 - 24.8%) ($0.5 million), the sales increase from new stores net of store closures ($0.3 million), and a positive change in foreign exchange on translation of U.S. dollar denominated gross margin to Canadian dollars ($0.6 million).

The improvement in our gross margins as a percentage of sales was primarily attributable to initial changes made to our pricing and marketing strategies in the latter half of the second quarter. These improvements were partially offset by certain temporary reductions in our gross margin percentage that arose in the first quarter and continued into the early part of the second quarter (see further discussion of these matters in the Analysis of Financial Results section of our MD&A).

Adjusted operating margin for the three months ended June 30, 2014 decreased by $1.1 million to $10.6 million, primarily due to the increases in operating and administrative expenses, which were partially offset by increases in gross margin as explained above. Adjusted operating margin as a percentage of sales was 6.0%, down from 7.0%. Operating margin for the three months ended June 30, 2014 decreased by $2.5 million to $9.3 million or 5.2% as a percentage of sales (Q2 2013 - 7.0%).

Operating and administrative expenses for the three months ended June 30, 2014 were $35.5 million, up 18.7% from $29.9 million a year earlier. Excluding adjusting items of $1.4 million in the quarter, these expenses increased by 14.1% or $4.2 million.


--  The adjusting items for the current quarter include $0.6 million for a
    payment made to a former officer of the Company upon his departure from
    the Company during the quarter, $0.4 million for a settlement with a
    vendor for software license fees from prior years, $0.3 million for
    legal and tax professional fees not expected to reoccur related to
    changes made to our corporate structure, and $0.1 million for a
    settlement related to an early termination of a lease in conjunction
    with a store closure in a prior year. 
--  The increases related to the operation of our stores include: higher
    overall costs associated with the additional store locations that have
    been opened in the past twelve months (e.g. rent, payroll, utilities,
    etc.), net of store closures ($0.4 million), rent escalations related to
    the renewal of long-term lease arrangements in the past twelve months
    ($0.5 million), increases in operating costs associated with running
    same-stores, including the use of additional various forms of media in
    our marketing plans ($1.5 million), and an increase in operating
    expenses as a result of the foreign exchange on translation of U.S.
    dollar denominated expenses to Canadian dollars ($0.4 million). 
--  Administrative expenses have increased by approximately $1.4 million
    over the prior year. This increase is primarily attributable to
    increased costs associated with the execution of our Seven-Point Plan,
    including investments in store level training programs, customer
    relationship management strategies and tools, branding strategies,
    efforts to remodel certain stores, information technology
    infrastructure, and additional head office staff to support the
    Company's growth and other business strategies. 

EARNINGS AND EARNINGS PER SHARE

For the three months ended June 30, 2014, net earnings of $3.4 million were recorded (Q2 2013 -$5.3 million). The decrease in net earnings in 2014 is primarily the result of the increase in operating and administrative expenses (inflationary increases and ongoing investments to support the Company's business strategies), and the $0.4 million net change in the mark-to-market adjustments related to an interest rate swap, which were partially offset by increases in gross margin and lower amortization expense as discussed further in our MD&A.

Basic and diluted earnings per share for the three months ended June 30, 2014 were $0.14 per share (Q2 2013: $0.23). Basic and diluted earnings per share decreased as a result of the same factors that impacted net earnings, as noted above.

CASH FLOW AND DIVIDENDS

For the three months ended June 30, 2014, cash used in operating activities before changes in non-cash working capital and adjusting items was $8.6 million ($0.37 per share), an decrease of $1.4 million compared to $10.0 million ($0.43 per share) for Q2 2013. The decrease was primarily due to the decrease in operating margins as discuss earlier.

During the three months ended June 30, 2014, the Company declared dividends of $0.27 per share, representing an annualized dividend of $1.08 per share. The Company has declared a monthly dividend consecutively since going public in 2004.

The Company has a dividend reinvestment plan (the "DRIP") to provide eligible shareholders with a convenient means of reinvesting monthly dividends into additional common shares. For further information about the DRIP and DRIP enrolment please visit the Company's website located at www.liquorstoresna.com.

CONFERENCE CALL

Liquor Stores N.A Ltd. will host an analyst and investor conference call on Friday, August 15, 2014 to discuss results for the three and six months ended June 30, 2014. The conference call will take place at 9:00 a.m. (MT). Participants on the call will include Stephen Bebis, President and Chief Executive Officer, Craig Corbett, Executive Vice President, Business Development, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, and David Gordey, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer.

To participate in the call, please dial 1-416-340-432 or toll-free at 1-800-952-4972. An archived recording of the conference call will be available approximately one hour after the completion of the call until August 22, 2014, by dialling 1-905-694-9451 or toll-free 1-800-408-3053 (pass code is 1527392).

ABOUT LIQUOR STORES N.A. LTD.

The Company operates 244 retail liquor stores in Alberta, British Columbia, Alaska and Kentucky. Liquor Stores' retail brands include: Liquor Depot, Liquor Barn, and Wine and Beyond in Alberta (175 stores); Liquor Depot and Liquor Barn in British Columbia (35 stores); Brown Jug in Alaska (22 stores); and Liquor Barn "The Ultimate Party Source" and Liquor Barn Express in Kentucky (12 stores). The Company's common shares and convertible subordinated debentures trade on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbols "LIQ" and "LIQ.DB.A", respectively.

Additional information about Liquor Stores N.A. Ltd. is available at www.sedar.com and the Company's website at www.liquorstoresna.com.

NON-IFRS FINANCIAL MEASURES

Operating margin, operating margin as a percentage of sales, adjusted operating margin, adjusting items, cash provided by operating activities before changes in working capital, cash provided by operating activities before changes in non-cash working capital on a per share basis, and same-store sales are not measures recognized by IFRS and do not have a standardized meaning prescribed by IFRS. Investors are cautioned that operating margin, operating margin as a percentage of sales, adjusted operating margin, adjusting items, cash provided in operating activities before changes in non-cash working capital, cash provided in operating activities before changes in non-cash working capital on a per share basis, and same-store sales should not replace net earnings or loss (as determined in accordance with IFRS) as an indicator of the Company's performance, of its cash flows from operating, investing and financing activities or as a measure of its liquidity and cash flows. The Company's method of calculating operating margin, operating margin as a percentage of sales, adjusted operating margin, adjusting items, cash provided in operating activities before changes in non-cash working capital, cash provided in operating activities before changes in non-cash working capital on a per share basis, and same-store sales may differ from the methods used by other issuers. Therefore, the Company's operating margin, operating margin as a percentage of sales, adjusted operating margin, adjusting items, cash provided in operating activities before changes in non-cash working capital, cash provided in operating activities before changes in working capital on a per share basis, and same-store sales may not be comparable to similar measures presented by other issuers.

Operating margin for purposes of disclosure under "Operating Results" has been derived by subtracting Operating and Administrative expenses from Gross Margin. Operating margin as a percentage of sales is calculated by dividing operating margin by sales.

Adjusted operating margin represents operating margin adjusted for unusual, non-recurring or non-operating factors on both a consolidated and segmented basis. These factors, referred to as adjusting items, are reconciled and discussed in the 'Summary of the Three and Six Months June 30, 2014' and 'Analysis of Financial Results' sections. Management believes the presentation of adjusted operating margin provides for useful information to investors and shareholders as it provides increased transparency and predictive value. Management uses adjusted operating margin to set targets and assess performance of the Company.

Cash provided by operating activities before changes in non-cash working capital and adjusting items is a non-IFRS financial measure that does not have a standardized meaning prescribed by IFRS and therefore is unlikely to be comparable to similar measures presented by other issuers. Investors are cautioned that this should not be construed as an alternative measure of profitability.

FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS

In the interest of providing current shareholders and potential investors with information regarding current results and future prospects, this release may contain forward-looking statements about the Company's objectives, plans, goals, aspirations, strategies, financial condition, results of operations, cash flows, performance, prospects and opportunities. All statements and information other than statements of historical fact contained in this release are forward-looking statements, including, without limitation, statements regarding the future financial position and performance of the Company, business strategies, costs, as well as plans and objectives of or involving the Company. Forward-looking statements are typically identified by words such as "believe", "expect", "will", "intend", "project", "anticipate", "estimate", "continue", "forecast", "could", "goal", "foresee", "seek", "strive", "may", "should" and similar expressions or the negatives thereof, as they relate to the Company and its Management. These forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, statements with respect to the future payment and timing of the payment of the Company's dividends, the anticipated opening dates of new stores, and Management's general expectations that the Company will have sufficient funds to complete store acquisitions, develop new stores and finance inventory.

Forward-looking statements reflect the Company's current plans, intentions, and expectations, which are based on Management's perception of historical trends, current conditions and expected future developments, as well as other factors it believes are appropriate in the circumstances. The Company's plans, intentions, and expectations are inherently subject to significant business, economic, competitive and other uncertainties and contingencies regarding future events and as such, are subject to change. There is no assurance that the plans, intentions, or expectations upon which these forward-looking statements are based will occur and such forward-looking statements included in this release should not be unduly relied upon.

Forward-looking statements are subject to risks, uncertainties and assumptions, including, but not limited to, those discussed under "Risk Factors" in the Company's MD&A for the three and six months ended June 30, 2014, the Company's MD&A for the year ended December 31, 2013, and the Company's Annual Information Form dated March 6, 2014. Other risks and uncertainties not presently known to the Company or that Management presently believes are not material could also cause actual results or events to differ materially from those expressed in its forward-looking statements.

The forward-looking statements contained herein are expressly qualified in their entirety by this cautionary statement. The forward-looking statements included in this release are made as of the date of this release and the Company assumes no obligation to update or revise them to reflect new events or circumstances except as expressly required by applicable securities law.

Contacts:
David Gordey, CA
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
Liquor Stores N.A. Ltd.
(780) 497-3262

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