Kroger reports higher sales as grocers prepare for coronavirus

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Kroger Co. said sales increased and profit rose in its latest quarter, adding that it has not changed its outlook for the company's current fiscal year amid the spread of the coronavirus.

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The grocery store chain maintained its previous financial forecast for its current fiscal year, saying Thursday that those expectations don't "include any potential impact related to the coronavirus."

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Shoppers have moved to ensure they have food and other household goods on hand as the coronavirus spreads in the U.S. Grocery chains and other retailers have been preparing for higher demand for items like canned foods, disinfectants and hand sanitizers, with some companies stepping up orders from suppliers. The death toll from the virus in the U.S. rose to 11 Wednesday as new cases of the virus were reported in California and New York.

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Campbell Soup Co. said Wednesday that retailers increased purchases of soups and other items like Swanson chicken in response to the epidemic.

Target Corp., which has a significant grocery business, said it had encountered stronger demand for staple products. "We've certainly seen a U.S. consumer that's starting to stock up," Chief Executive Brian Cornell said Tuesday.

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Kroger reported $28.89 billion in sales for its quarter that ended Feb. 1, up from $28.29 billion the year earlier and ahead of the $28.87 billion that analysts polled by FactSet expected.

Same-store sales, or those from locations open for at least 15 months, rose 2% in the latest quarter, excluding fuel sales.

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The Cincinnati-based company said profit rose to $327 million, or 40 cents a share, from $259 million, or 32 cents a share, a year earlier.

Excluding impairment charges and some other costs, Kroger reported an adjusted profit for the latest quarter of 57 cents, 2 cents more than forecasts from analysts.

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