NEW YORK (AP) -- Kroger reported a better-than-expected profit for its fourth quarter Thursday as the nation's largest supermarket operator saw a key sales figure rise.
The Cincinnati-based company, which also operates Ralphs and Fry's, has fared better than its peers in adapting to a shifting supermarket landscape that is facing intensifying competition. In particular, people are getting their groceries from a wider variety of places, including big-box retailers like Target, specialty chains like Whole Foods, drugstores and dollar stores.
To keep pace, Kroger has adapted its store formats, developing both larger and smaller locations to compete in different segments of the market. It's also trying to improve the in-store experience, whether it's by expanding specialty food sections or shortening wait times at check-out.
For the period ending Feb. 1, Kroger Co. said sales at established locations rose 4.3 percent, excluding fuel.
By comparison, Safeway last month said the figure rose 1.6 percent in its latest quarter. Safeway, based in Pleasanton, Calif., has also said it's in talks to put itself up for sale amid ongoing consolidation in the industry.
For the quarter, Kroger said it earned $422 million, or 81 cents per share. Excluding one-time items, it earned 78 cents per share, topping the 72 cent per share Wall Street expected.
A year ago, it earned $462 million, or 88 cents per share.
Revenue slipped to $23.22 billion, reflecting the shorter quarter with one less week compared with last year. But the results were above the $23.15 billion analysts expected.
Shares of Kroger were up 2 percent at $44.63 in premarket trading.