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REFILE-Kroger comparable sales surge 30% in March, borrows $1 billion

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April 1 (Reuters) - Kroger Co’s comparable sales surged about 30% in March as consumers cleared off shelves in preparation for a lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the grocer said it had borrowed $1 billion to boost its liquidity.

The supermarket chain also maintained its forecast for the year, despite the boost in sales and said it was being conservative about expectations citing a fluid environment caused by the outbreak.

Several retailers have withdrawn their projections due to the virus-related uncertainty.

“It is too early to speculate what will emerge as the ‘new normal’ in food consumption at home or what the impact on sales will be in future periods,” Kroger said.

The pandemic, which has killed nearly 4,000 in the United States, has led to panic buying, with several people thronging stores to stock up on canned foods and everyday essentials.

“After experiencing strong sales in February, the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a significantly greater lift in sales across both physical retail stores and digital channels in March,” Chief Executive Officer Rodney McMullen said in a statement.

McMullen said sales in March tapered towards the end of the month, but remained higher than normal, as customers adjusted to the new dining, work and travel restrictions.

The company said it expects first quarter profit to exceed its prior forecast and would pause additional share repurchases during the first quarter. (Reporting by Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)

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