To hear Canadian Tire president and CEO Wayne Sales tell it, Canadians were looking for a safe haven in the current economy and took refuge at Canadian Tire. From the looks of its balance sheet, it appears they spent a few dollars while they were there. At yesterday’s annual shareholders meeting, Sales announced first quarter consolidated net earnings of $30.3 million, an increase of 5.5% compared to the $28.7 million recorded in 2001. First quarter net earnings per share was $0.39, up 5.6% from the $0.37 per share in the first quarter of 2001. Last year, the first quarter results benefited significantly from gains realized on the sale of Hamilton Discount Corporation and a portfolio of third-party credit charge receivables. Excluding these gains, and gains from the sale of receivables in the first quarter of 2002, net earnings increased 27.3% year-over-year. PartSource continues to grow comparable store sales in excess of 10% with particular strength in the commercial installer segment. During the first quarter, CTR opened four new-format stores, three of which replaced or expanded traditional stores and one of which was opened in a new market. This brings the total network of Canadian Tire stores to 451, of which 274 are in the new format. CTR still plans to open 22 new-format stores in 2002. “We are encouraged by our performance this quarter across all of our businesses. Canadian Tire Retail was particularly strong with a 9.4% increase in retail sales and a 5.8% increase in comparable store sales compared to last year,” noted Wayne C. Sales, president and CEO. “Canadian Tire Retail delivered a 54.7% improvement in earnings before tax, and Canadian Tire Petroleum also contributed significantly to our earnings performance this quarter with a 61.9% year over year increase in earnings before tax,” added Sales. While the recent Mark’s Work Wearhouse acquisition lost money, Sales was positive about its future, which will involve the conversion of Mark’s World stores to the Wearhouse format. “Financial Services and Mark’s Work Wearhouse also made excellent progress this quarter. Financial Services converted 135,000 retail accounts to Options MasterCard during the quarter, and increased MasterCard receivables by 87% over the first quarter of 2001 to $962 million, representing 69.5% of our outstanding receivables,” said Sales. Canadian Tire Corporation’s consolidated retail sales for the quarter were $1.24 billion across the store networks in Canadian Tire, PartSource, Petroleum and Mark’s Work Wearhouse, an improvement of 11.1% over the $1.12 billion in retail sales in 2001. Consolidated gross operating revenue for the first quarter was $1.20 billion, an increase of 5.5% from the $1.14 billion recorded in 2001. CTR retail sales for the quarter were $989.0 million, a 9.4% increase from $903.9 million in 2001. Gross operating revenue for the quarter was $883.8 million, a 4.5% improvement over the $845.4 million recorded in 2001. CTR revenues were driven by strong sales, shipments to Associate Dealers and market share growth in core categories such as hardware, automotive and sporting goods.