US-based supermarket chain Kroger has reported that its first-quarter identical sales, with the exception of fuel, exceeded its internal expectations.

The company posted a 4.1% decline in identical sales without fuel compared to the same period of last year, which translates to a 14.9% two-year stacked growth.

During the quarter, Kroger’s digital sales increased by 16% since the first quarter of the previous year, and 108% since the first quarter of 2019.

The company’s total sales were $41.3bn for the quarter, compared to $41.5bn for the first quarter of last year.

Kroger’s operating profit for the quarter was $805m, while its earnings per share (EPS) was $0.18 and its gross margin was 22.6% of sales.

The company’s adjusted EPS in the quarter was $1.19, which represents a compounded annual growth rate of 28.6% compared with 2019.

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By GlobalData

Kroger chairman and CEO Rodney McMullen said: “Kroger is even better positioned to connect with our customers than we were prior to the pandemic as a result of our relentless focus on leading with fresh and accelerating with digital.

“I am incredibly proud of our amazing associates who continue to be there for our customers, communities and each other when they need us most and who strive to deliver a full, fresh and friendly experience to every customer every time.

“Customers are responding to the investments we have made in digital, as evidenced by our triple-digit growth in digital sales since the beginning of 2019.”

During the quarter, the company launched 253 products, including seasonal fresh produce and products, and expanded its digital services to 2,233 pick-up locations and 2,488 delivery locations.

Kroger has raised its full-year adjusted net EPS to between $2.95 and $3.10.

Mr McMullen said: “We are raising our guidance based on the strength of our results and we remain confident in our ability to deliver consistently attractive total shareholder return.”

In April, Kroger announced that it aims to achieve double digital sales by the end of 2023.