We review Kroger’s first quarter results and the factors driving growth at the world’s second largest food retail business.
Identical store sales behind expectations
Kroger’s first quarter sales fell by 1.2% to $37.3bn, reflecting the divestment of its convenience business last year. Total sales, excluding fuel and the impact of selling the convenience store business, increased 2.0%. Identical store sales over the period increased 1.5%, excluding fuel. This is below the run-rate required to meet its full-year guidance, with several initiatives underway to try and accelerate its performance. The work undertaken on space optimisation last year is expected to generate a tailwind for the business going forward.
Source: IGD Research
Investing to redefine the customer experience
Kroger remains a business in transformation, driven by its strategic plan Restock Kroger. Central to this is its goal to increase operating profit by $400m over a three-year period, driven mainly by alternative profit streams. This will enable the business to continue to invest in the customer experience, including its ecommerce and private label operations. The business remains confidence on achieving this, with alternative profit streams expected to contribute an estimated incremental $100m this year. The retailer has made several appointments across its media and data business units to enhance its capabilities in these areas.
Ecommerce sales up 42%
Ecommerce sales increased 42% in the quarter as it expanded grocery pickup to 1,685 locations and delivery to 2,126 locations. It also started to test a 30-minute delivery service, Kroger Rush, in the Cincinnati area. The retailer made further progress with its private label business, launching over 200 new products. These contributed to sales growth of 3.3%, helping unit share to increase to 28.9% in the quarter. Its Simple Truth and Private Selection ranges performed particularly well, delivering double-digit sales growth.
Partnerships underpinning transformation
Partnerships are an important part of Kroger’s transformation. During the quarter it formed PearlRock Partners with private investment firm Lindsay Goldberg. This is a new platform to identify, invest in and help grow the next generation of leading consumer product brands. It also formed a new direct relationship with Pinterest, further enhancing its Kroger Performance Media division. The retailer also broke ground on the first customer fulfillment centre that is being developed as part of its partnership with Ocado. Developing these types of partnerships has become a much stronger focus throughout the food retail industry as retailers look to move at pace and bring new capabilities and thinking into their businesses.
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