NEW YORK — Speaking at an investor conference here Wednesday, Kroger Co.'s chief financial officer said the company might actually add to its net square footage with new stores this year as it winds down several years of closing underperforming locations.
“Depending on how many stores we wind up closing this year from an operational standpoint, we could have chance to wind up with a little increase in our store count this year for the first time in a while,” said J. Michael Schlotman, senior vice president and CFO at the Cincinnati-based retailer. Speaking at the Jefferies Global Consumer Conference, Schlotman said Kroger has now largely completed a multi-year effort to exit from its least productive locations.
As previously reported by SN, Kroger shed a net total of 25 stores last year, ending 2011 with 2,435 supermarkets.
The growth is likely to be focused in existing — and possibly adjacent — markets, said Scott Mushkin, an analyst at Jefferies. “After seeing negative square footage growth over the past few years, this [store-count growth] could give a nice lift to sales,” he said. “The company seemed more confident that its model could translate, even outside its current markets, and we would not be surprised if Kroger in the next 18 months were to enter new markets adjacent to current markets.”