CINCINNATI — Kroger Co. reported solid sales growth for its fourth quarter and fiscal year ended January 28.
For the fourth quarter, net sales increased 5.9% to $34.82 billion. Comparable-store sales (excluding fuel) increased 6.2% from a year ago.
Fourth quarter sales of its Our Brands merchandise increased 10.1%. Kroger in the quarter celebrated the 10th anniversary of its Simple Truth brand, which today encompasses more than 1,500 unique natural and organic products.
For the full year, net sales were up 7.5% to $137.89 billion. Comparable-store sales (excluding fuel) increased 5.6%.
Kroger said adjusted earnings per share increased 15% in fiscal 2022, thanks in part to the company’s ability to control costs. Kroger said it achieved cost savings that exceeded $1 billion for the fifth consecutive year.
Kroger last year raised associates’ wages to an average of $18 an hour ($23 an hour when benefits are factored in).
“Kroger achieved exceptional results in 2022 as we executed on our ‘Leading With Fresh and Accelerating With Digital’ strategy, building on record years in 2020 and 2021,” Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement.
“Providing affordable food is even more essential at a time when inflation is affecting so many of our customers’ lives,” McMullen said. “We do this by delivering fresh products at a great value, trusted Our Brands items and personalized promotions. Our proven go-to-market strategy enables Kroger to successfully navigate many operating environments. We believe that by delivering value for our customers, investing in our associates and serving our communities, Kroger will continue to achieve attractive and sustainable total returns for our shareholders.”
In its fiscal 2023 outlook, Kroger projects adjusted per-share earnings of between $4.45 and $4.60. Executives are forecasting 1% to 2% growth in comparable sales, excluding fuel.
Kroger said it expects to continue to generate strong free cash flow and that the company remains committed to investing in the business to drive long-term sustainable net earnings growth and maintaining its investment-grade debt rating.
The company expects to continue to pay its quarterly dividend and anticipates this will increase over time, subject to board approval. Kroger has paused its share repurchase program to prioritize deleveraging following the proposed merger with Albertsons Cos.
“In 2023, we expect to build on this momentum and deliver revenue and EPS growth on top of the record results achieved over the past three years,” said Gary Millerchip, Kroger’s chief financial officer. “We expect to grow revenue by continuing to invest in our customers through competitive pricing and personalization, fresh products and a better shopping experience. Building on our significant investments over the past four years, we will also continue to increase associate wages. We will fund these investments through product mix improvements, cost-saving initiatives and growth in our alternative profit businesses.”
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