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    Kroger Sales Up

    Increase spurred by proprietary items, same-store sales.

    CINCINNATI -- The Kroger Co. yesterday said first-quarter earnings increased 19 percent despite one-time costs, fueled by ongoing cost reductions, productivity efforts and higher sales of private-label products such as the Kroger brand.

    The nation's largest supermarket retailer and operator of more than 800 convenience stores reported sales of $15.7 billion for the quarter ended May 25, up nearly 4 percent from the first quarter of 2001. The company opened, expanded, moved or acquired 34 food stores in the quarter. Sales for comparable stores rose 0.6 percent.

    Earnings for the quarter were $361.9 million for the quarter, jumping from $303.4 million in the same period last year.

    Excluding one-time restructuring costs and an accounting change, earnings were $385.7 million.

    "We expect that the same-store sales increase in the second quarter will be higher," chairman and CEO Joseph Pichler said. "In the first four weeks of the second quarter, same-store sales are running ahead of that mark."

    The chain operates more than 3,200 retail units under about two dozen brands.

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