In spite of the recession, an Iowa based business is reporting a record third-quarter. Casey’s General Stores’ net earnings in the quarter that ended January 31st totaled $14-million. That compares to $13-million dollars for the same period in 2008.

Bill Walljasper is the senior vice-president and chief financial officer of Casey’s, which has just over 400 stores in Iowa. "There’s a lot of what I’ll call ‘comfort items’ sold in convenience stores and despite the economic challenges, I think people have a tendency not to give up some of those comfort items or their normal buying habits," Walljasper said.

"They still want that cup of coffee, a donut, maybe a pack of cigarettes or a 20 ounce soda." The third quarter report reflected a boost in sales of grocery items, beer, fountain drinks and pizza prepared in store. Walljasper says the economy hasn’t stopped people from buying items at Caseys, but it has led to a "buying shift."

For instance, Walljasper says patrons might choose a cheaper brand of cigarettes or beer than they typically purchase. Same-store sales of grocery and other merchandise rose by 6.5% in the third quarter of 2009 compared to last year.

Walljasper says fiscal year 2009 is on pace to match Casey’s record earnings of 2008. "Given the lower retail price of gasoline, if that continues, I think we’re positioned very well to have this momentum go into our next fiscal year," Walljasper said. Casey’s, which is based in Ankeny, has more than 1,400 stores and 1,800 employees in a nine-state region.