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Kroger reports positive Q4 results, ‘cautious’ with 2010 forecast

BY Allison Cerra

CINCINNATI Fourth-quarter sales for Kroger increased 7.2% to $18.6 billion compared with the year-ago period, the largest traditional grocery retailer announced Tuesday.

Kroger — which boasts itself as having several banners across 31 states — said that excluding fuel sales, total sales for the quarter increased 2%, while same-store sales increased 1.2% over the prior year.

Meanwhile, quarterly net earnings dropped to $255.4 million, or 39 cents per share, from $349.2 million, or 53 cents per share.

“The Kroger team delivered solid fourth-quarter results for both our customers and our shareholders during what continues to be a difficult operating environment. We are strengthening Kroger’s overall competitive position by increasing the number of households that are loyal to Kroger and earning a greater share of their business,” said David Dillon, Kroger’s chairman and CEO.

For fiscal 2009, total sales for Kroger increased 0.8% to $76.7 billion, compared with fiscal 2008. Excluding fuel sales, total sales for fiscal 2009 increased 2.9%, and identical supermarket sales rose 2.1% compared with the prior fiscal year.

Despite solid results for the close of 2009, Kroger said it is “cautious” with its 2010 forecast because the pace of economic recovery is uncertain. Kroger said it anticipates identical supermarket sales growth, excluding fuel, of 2% to 3%.  Net earnings are expected to range from $1.60 to $1.80 per diluted share.  Kroger’s quarterly dividend enhances total shareholder return by approximately 1.5% to 2%.

“During a year that proved to be extremely trying, Kroger successfully achieved positive identical sales growth, increased the number of households loyal to Kroger stores, and generated strong tonnage growth. In addition, we reduced debt, increased the dividend we pay shareholders and prudently invested capital to keep our stores fresh and innovative,” Dillon said.  “Kroger’s strategy generates value in good times and bad. We believe Kroger will continue to be in the best position to deliver shareholder value now and as the economy improves.”

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New face behind those Foster Grants: Raquel Welch

BY Allison Cerra

SMITHFIELD, R.I. Eyewear designer Foster Grant is revitalizing its tagline, “Who’s that behind those Foster Grants?”, with a classic spokeswoman.

Hollywood icon Raquel Welch, who served as spokeswoman for the brand in the 1960s in a national advertising campaignn, is back in FGXI’s television campaign that kicks off April 12.

“Signing Raquel Welch for Foster Grant proved to be very successful for the Foster Grant brand,” said Richard Kornhauser, FGXI EVP and chief marketing officer. “It was an obvious choice to work with her again in 2010. Raquel continues to combine her tremendous star power and natural beauty to appeal to all age ranges, gender and demographics, making her a perfect fit for Foster Grant.”

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Walmart replaces Kodak photo kiosks with HP

BY Allison Cerra

BENTONVILLE, Ark. Kodak photo kiosks in Walmart soon will be replaced, according to publishing reports.

Walmart said its U.S. stores will feature ‘Prints in Minutes’ terminals by HP, according to a report by MarketWatch last week. The roll-out will be completed by summer.

In 2006, the retail giant established an online photo service relationship with HP’s Snapfish and Fujifilm.

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