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Kroger: Storm response helped boost sales


Kroger said its ability to keep its supermarkets open and well-stocked as customers rushed to hoard groceries ahead of winter storms helped boost its results in the fourth quarter.

The nation’s largest supermarket operator on Thursday said a key sales figure climbed for the period and issued a better-than-expected profit for the year ahead. The company, which operates, Ralphs, Fry’s, Food 4 Less and other chains, noted that it sped up deliveries several days ahead of storms to ensure shelves would be replenished.

“In some cases, our associates even welcomed stranded travelers in extreme freezing conditions to spend the night in one of our stores,” CEO Rodney McMullen said during a call with analysts, referencing instances where stores in Atlanta took in people.

That helps cultivate trust among customers that Kroger stores will be open when they’re most needed, McMullen said.

The positive benefit of the winter weather is in contrast to many other companies that have cited the conditions for weaker results. At Kroger, executives noted that one of the benefits is that people don’t stick to shopping lists when stocking up before storms.

Kroger, based in Cincinnati, has also fared better than its peers more broadly in adapting to intensifying competition. In particular, people are getting their groceries from a wider variety of places, including big-box retailers like Target, specialty chains like Whole Foods, drugstores and dollar stores.

To keep pace, Kroger has adapted its store formats, developing both larger and smaller locations to compete in different segments of the market. It’s also trying to keep prices down and improve the in-store experience.

For the period ending Feb. 1, Kroger Co. said sales at established locations rose 4.3 percent, excluding fuel.

Kroger, which recently snapped up regional chain Harris Teeter, declined to comment on whether it’s interested buying a piece of Safeway. Cerberus Capital Management, which last year led an investor group that bought five chains from Supervalu, also declined to comment on its interest.

Shares of Kroger were up 2 percent at $44.63.


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