Editor's Note

Competition for the consumer dollar is heating up in every sector. Even grocery stores are under stress and they already work on the smallest profit margins in the consumer retail.



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KR - Kroger Co - Company Profile

The Kroger Co., together with its subsidiaries, operates as a retailer in the United States. It also manufactures and processes food for sale in its supermarkets. The company operates retail food and drug stores, multi-department stores, jewelry stores, and convenience stores. Its combination food and drug stores offer natural food and organic sections, pharmacies, general merchandise, pet centers, fresh seafood, and organic produce; multi-department stores provide general merchandise items, such as apparel, home fashion and furnishings, outdoor living, electronics, automotive products, toys, and fine jewelry; and price impact warehouse stores offer grocery, and health and beauty care items, as well as meat, dairy, baked goods, and fresh produce items. The company's marketplace stores comprise full-service grocery, pharmacy, health and beauty departments, and perishable goods, as well as general merchandise, including apparel, home goods, and toys. It operates under the banner brands, such as Kroger, Ralphs, Fred Meyer, King Soopers, etc., as well as Simple Truth and Simple Truth Organic brands. As of January 30, 2016, the company operated 2,778 retail food stores, including 1,387 fuel centers; 784 convenience stores; and 323 fine jewelry stores and an online retail store, as well as franchised 78 convenience stores. Company description from FinViz.com.

Kroger reported earnings of 53 cents that matched estimates but declined 7% from the year ago quarter. Revenues rose 5% to $27.611 billion and that best estimates for $27.357 billion. Same store sales fell -0.7% and the first decline in 13 years. Analysts expected a 0.1% rise. Competitors Ahold Delhaize, Walmart, Publix and Aldi reported an increase in sales so apparently Kroger is losing market share.

They guided for 2017 for earnings in the range of $2.21-$2.25 per share. Analysts were expecting $2.23.

Earnings June 1st.

There is a major battle shaping for the grocery sector. German discounter Aldi is on a push to open hundreds of new stores in areas currently served by Kroger. Target has vowed to lower prices and sacrifice margins in order to retain market share. Amazon is experimenting with the grocery store concept and has been rumored to be considering opening more than 1,000 stores. Walmart has expanded their grocery departments and now carry more than 350 organic products under the private Walmart labels.

Kroger has been forced to adopt a more promotional posture with bigger ads and lower prices in order to retain share. Goldman removed Kroger from their conviction buy list and warned they doubt they will be able to even get close to their forecast for 8-11% earnings growth. Northcoast cut them from buy to neutral and several analysts cut their price targets.

Tuesday's close was a two year low and the decline is not likely to stop. The grocery sector is broken and profits are going to be tough to generate.

Sell short KR shares, currently $28.81, initial stop loss $30.15.

Optional: Buy April $27.50 put, currently 45 cents, no stop loss.