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CINCINNATI — Kroger reported first quarter sales and earnings that beat expectations, and the company raised its outlook for the full year.

Kroger said that total company sales in the first quarter were $44.6 billion, compared to $41.3 billion for the same period last year. Excluding fuel, sales increased 3.8%. Identical Sales without fuel increased 4.1%

Kroger exteriorThe company also noted that Fresh Department identical sales increased by 5.2%, its store brands saw identical sales gains of 6.3%, and its digitally engaged households grew by more than half a million and digital coupon downloads increased 11% in the quarter.

“Kroger achieved strong first-quarter results as we successfully executed on our strategy of Leading with Fresh and Accelerating with Digital,” chairman and CEO Rodney McMullen said. “We are incredibly proud of our associates who continue to put the customer at the center of everything we do.

“Our team is doing an outstanding job managing costs in an inflationary environment, which is allowing us to continue to invest in our associates while providing our customers the freshest food at affordable prices when and where they need it. We are delivering everyday value through personalized experiences, trusted Our Brands products, data-driven promotions, and seamless e-commerce solutions.

“Looking ahead, we are well-positioned to continue delivering for our customers, investing in our associates, and driving sustainable returns for shareholders.”

Gross margin was 21.6% of sales for the first quarter. The FIFO gross margin rate, excluding fuel, decreased 26 basis points compared to the same period last year. This decrease was mainly due to continued strategic price investments and higher supply chain costs offset by sourcing benefits and the cycling of a write-down related to a donation of personal protective equipment inventory from prior year.

The LIFO charge for the quarter was $93 million, compared to a LIFO charge of $37 million for the same period last year driven by higher inflation.

Kroger said its operating profit for the quarter was $1.51 billion, and it had an adjusted FIFO operating profit of $1.6 billion in the quarter. Earnings per share came in at $0.90, and adjusted EPS was $1.45.

“Our relentless focus on executing our strategy and sustained food at home trends led to a strong first quarter,” Kroger chief financial officer Gary Millerchip said. “The Kroger team is effectively navigating a dynamic retail environment. Our diverse and resilient business model gives us confidence to raise our full-year guidance. We now expect identical sales without fuel to be in the range of 2.5% to 3.5%, adjusted FIFO operating profit of $4.3 billion to $4.4 billion, and adjusted net earnings per diluted share to be in the range of $3.85 to $3.95. We remain confident in our ability to deliver sustainable earnings growth and total shareholder returns of 8-11% over time.”