BOTTOM LINE: The Kroger Co., the nation's biggest traditional supermarket operator, reported net income of $461.5 million, or 88 cents per share, for the fourth quarter. Its results excluding one-time items beat analysts' expectations.
THE BACKGROUND: The Cincinnati-based company, which also owns Ralphs, Fry's and Food 4 Less, faces growing competition from big-box retailers, drug stores and dollar stores that are expanding their grocery sections. Kroger has focused on improving the in-store experience, offering discount programs and expanding its stable of private-label products.
WHAT'S COOKING: Sales at stores open at least a year rose 3 percent, excluding fuel, in the fourth quarter. The metric is a closely-watched indicator of retail health. For 2013, the company expects the figure to rise between 2.5 percent and 3.5 percent.