CINCINNATI — Net earnings attributable to the Kroger Co. in the third quarter ended Nov. 10 dipped to $317 million, or 39c per share on the common stock, down from $397 million, or 44c, in the prior-year period. Sales fell 0.3% to $27,672 million from $27,749 million.
Identical sales, excluding fuel, grew 1.6% for the quarter, in line with company expectations and driven by natural and organic, seafood, produce and deli departments.
The retailer’s private label brands, including Private Selection and Simple Truth, generated strong results in the quarter and is one of the most profitable parts of Kroger’s supermarket business, said William Rodney McMullen, chairman and chief executive officer, during a Dec. 6 earnings call.
“Simple Truth and Simple Truth Organic is our fastest growing brand, with sales up double digits, again, in this third quarter,” Mr. McMullen said.
For the first three quarters of the year, adjusted operating net earnings per diluted share was ahead of company expectations.
“We have now been executing for three quarters our Restock Kroger plan to create shareholder value by redefining the grocery customer experience, partnering for customer value, developing talent and living our purpose,” Mr. McMullen said. “We feel good about the progress and how everything is coming together. We are proactively investing for the future in stores and online and in our customers and associates.”
He added, “Our 2018 accomplishments and investments set us up well for 2019, and we are committed to delivering on our Restock Kroger financial targets by the end of 2020. We have a clear path through both redefining the customer experience and growing alternative profit streams.”
Kroger’s digital sales grew by more than 60% in the third quarter, Mr. McMullen said.
“We are aggressively investing to build digital platforms because they give our customers the ability to have anything, anytime, anywhere from Kroger and because they're our catalysts to grow our business and improve margins in the future.”