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“We’ve got to get our butts in gear,” Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen tells the Wall Street Journal in a long piece out today. “There was no doubt we were behind.”

Here’s how the Journal evaluates Kroger’s current market position:

“Not since Walmart Inc. first pushed into groceries in the late 1980s have traditional chains faced so many challenges. E-commerce is transforming the business, forcing cash-strapped companies to overhaul their operations and invest heavily in technology and talent to keep customers from straying to Amazon.com Inc. At the same time, they have to keep food prices as low as consumers have come to expect.

“The transition has proven rough for Kroger, which stayed focused on store sales long after mass-merchant competitors were investing in online-ordering technology and delivery services. Executives have debated which investments to make and how drastically to change the company’s business model. Some would-be technology partners have been turned off by what they see as the grocer’s conservative culture—including members of one group who stormed out of a meeting in protest.

“Mr. McMullen knows it is a pivotal moment for the company and that investors are concerned … To catch up, Kroger has budgeted $4 billion for investments, including warehouses managed by robots, a meal-kit company and digitally enabled shelves that market products to customers through LED displays. Last year, it formed a partnership with an autonomous-vehicle startup, Nuro Inc., and started selling its line of natural and organic products on Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s Tmall site in China.

“Those investments are denting its profits at a time of intense competition to sell groceries cheaply. Its shares are down 17% since June 2017, when Amazon said it would buy Whole Foods, and have dropped after five of Kroger’s eight latest quarterly earnings reports.”

You can read the entire story here.
KC's View:
It is worth pointing out that it was just the other day that USA Today had a piece about how, while Kroger has been “battered,” it also has been increasing sales and gaining market share.

I’ll repeat here what I said in response to that story … The thing about these battles and wars is that they’re never going to end, never going to be resolved. There will always be new battlefields and new hills to take, new weapons to employ, and new competitors.

Is Kroger playing catch-up? Sure. But I think Kroger also is proving to be more nimble lately than it was just a few years ago. It is an ongoing process, never pausing.