(May 16) MINNEAPOLIS — Retailer and food distributor Nash Finch Co., which delayed the release of earnings reports from 2002 as the Securities and Exchange Commission investigated how it reported slotting fees, announced earnings for the year were $23.6 million.

Also, Nash Finch will supply 20-25 Super Kmarts, picking up the business from Fleming Cos., which has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, according to a May 15 report from U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray.

Nash Finch won’t have to add distribution centers, U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray senior analyst Eric Larson reported. The Kmart business could bring an extra $100 million to $150 million in sales, Larson estimated in his report.

A Nash Finch spokesperson was unable to verify the Kmart supply arrangement, but chief executive officer Ron Marshall has referred to taking advantage of Fleming’s situation.

“The intense competition in our industry, combined with the difficult economic environment, continues to affect our results,” Marshall said in a May 12 statement about the company’s earnings.

“We are taking steps to re-engineer and strengthen our retail operations and to bolster our food distribution business.”

The just-released 2002 earnings reflect an accounting change in accordance with new slotting fee reporting policies.

According to a statement from the company, the previous method of immediately recognizing the slotting fees — also known as vendor allowances — follows generally accepted accounting principles.

The SEC has agreed to the new practice, which drops would-be 2002 earnings from $30.6 million to $23.6 million with the delayed fee reporting.

In the statement, Marshall said the company’s first-quarter 2003 report will be released soon.

Marshall also said retail sales dropped from $1.035 billion in fiscal year 2001 to $1.028 billion in fiscal year 2002, including an 11.7% drop in same-store sales for fourth-quarter fiscal year 2002 sales, compared with fourth-quarter sales from a year earlier.

Nash Finch owns and operates more than 100 stores, including Avanza, Buy n Save, Econofoods, Family Thrift Center and Sun Mart stores.