US supermarket chain Kroger Co. has reported net earnings of US$351.5m, or $0.46 per diluted share, for the first quarter ended 24 May 2003, compared with $321.7m, or $0.40 per diluted share.

Total sales for the first quarter of fiscal 2003 increased 3.8% to $16.3bn. Total food-store sales rose 3.5%. Identical food-store sales, including fuel, declined 0.1%. Identical food-store sales, excluding fuel, decreased 1.1%. Comparable food-store sales, which include relocations and expansions, increased 0.7% for the quarter. Comparable food-store sales, excluding fuel, declined 0.5%.

“We are pleased with our sales and earnings performance in the first quarter, especially in the light of continued economic uncertainty, high unemployment, and intense competition,” said Joseph A. Pichler, Kroger chairman and chief executive officer.

“Kroger’s Strategic Growth Plan, announced 19 months ago, is the appropriate response to this economic and competitive environment. We believe that the continued enhancement of the plan will improve our competitive price position in selected categories and markets as we offer even better value to our customers. We expect to exceed the plan’s original goal of $500m in cost savings by the end of 2003. Through the end of the first quarter, Kroger had achieved savings of $377m,” he added.