CHESAPEAKE, Va. — Dollar Tree here said Thursday it plans to increase the number of freezer and cooler installations this year to 550 additional stores, up from the chain's original plan of 475.

The installation of frozen and refrigerated equipment at 229 stores during the first quarter ended May 4 was the most installations in a single quarter, Bob Sasser, president and chief executive officer, told analysts. Dollar Tree has freezers and coolers at 2,778 units, or 58% of its 4,763 locations.

With plans to open 350 new stores this year, Dollar Tree will have refrigerated equipment at about 63% of its store base by year's end, "and we like what [that] does in sales and traffic, and we like what it does in raising the sale of our variety merchandise also," Sasser said.

The quarter marked "the first time in a while" that sales of discretionary merchandise outpaced consumables, the company said — possibly a result of over-compensating for the early Easter holiday by pushing variety sales, Sasser explained. "We are still committed to our consumable business. We're going to drive that part of the business too."

For the 13-week quarter, net income rose 15% to $133.5 million, while sales were up 8.3% to $1.9 billion, and comparable-store sales increased 2.1% on top of a 5.6% increase in last year's first quarter.

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