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At shareholders meeting, Kroger emphasizes focus on customers

BY Allison Cerra

CINCINNATI — Kroger CEO David Dillon said the company will continue to focus on customer loyalty, after reporting last week that it saw identical-store sales increase for 30 consecutive quarters.

During its shareholders meeting on Thursday, Dillon said the company will build its future growth around its Customer 1st strategy, which emphasizes "[our] people, products, prices and the shopping experience."

"Our strategy is really to grow our relevancy to our customers," Dillon was quoted as saying by the Associated Press. "That becomes our bigger mission; to the extent that leads to new markets, great."

Amid its positive first-quarter results, Kroger last week increased its earnings guidance to $1.85 to $1.95 per diluted share for the full year.

In related news, Kroger declared a quarterly dividend of 10.5 cents, payable on Sept. 1 to shareholders of record on Aug. 15.

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Whole Foods announces goal of 1,000 U.S. stores

BY DSN STAFF

AUSTIN, Texas — Whole Foods Market co-CEO Walter Robb told investors at a Jefferies Global Consumer Conference that the 300-store chain is expected to grow to 1,000 stores in the United States.

The organic grocer sees opportunity in Canada as well, and Robb said it expects to grow its store count there from six to 35.

As reported by Reuters on Wednesday, Robb said the tumult in the commercial property market has created opportunities for companies looking to expand, and Whole Foods has identified locations where it "can put some bets down and take advantage of that," Robb said. However, he added, the chain has left itself flexibility room to exit leases should the economy significantly worsen.

"We have some contingency plans so that if we needed to, we could slow down," Robb said, who added that leases now include exit and buyout clauses.

Robb said Whole Foods would give more detail on growth plans on the company’s next quarterly earnings call.

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Stop & Shop opens Andover, Mass., store

BY Allison Cerra

QUINCY, Mass. — Stop & Shop opened a new store in Andover, Mass., on Friday, the company said.

The new store, which touts several full-service departments, also features Check It! self checkout lanes, Scan It! handheld devices that allow customers to scan and bag groceries while they shop, as well as Order It! deli kiosks, where shoppers may pre-order deli items. Redbox and Coinstar kiosks are also available, the company said.

Additionally, the store also boasts a variety of energy-efficient features, including:

  • ECM motors in the refrigerated fixtures and walk-in coolers;

  • Low-mercury energy efficient T5 HO fluorescent light fixtures with occupancy sensors in the storage areas and offices;

  • LED lights for accent lighting (also in the refrigerated display cases and interior/exterior signage);

  • An energy management system to monitor the performance of the lighting, refrigeration, and HVAC systems; and

  • Low flow fixtures in the bathrooms and prep areas to reduce water consumption.

"For nearly 100 years, customers have relied on Stop & Shop to have quality products at a good value," Stop & Shop New England division president Mark McGowan said. "In preparation for the opening, we worked to bring our signature value and community spirit to Andover. We believe the community will enjoy this fresh shopping experience as well as the quality, selection and customer service they have come to expect from Stop & Shop."

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