CINCINNATI – Investments in the company’s Restock Kroger initiative weighed on the grocers financial performance in the third quarter of fiscal 2018.

Sales for the third quarter ended Nov. 10 were $27.67 billion, down 0.3 percent from $27.75 billion reported in the third quarter of 2017. Excluding fuel, the sale of its convenience store business and the merger with Home Chef, total sales increased 1.7 percent in the third quarter compared to the same quarter last year.

Net earnings for the most recent quarter totaled $317 million, or $0.39 per diluted share, compared with $397 million, or $0.44 per diluted share reported in the year-ago period.

Adjusted operating net earnings for the third quarter — which relates to the change in the market value of Kroger’s investment in Ocado securities — were $394 million, or $0.48 per diluted share.

“Kroger is transforming our business model. We’re moving from a traditional grocer to a growth company with both a strong customer ecosystem that offers anything, anytime, anywhere, and asset-light, high-margin alternative partnerships and services,” said Rodney McMullen, chairman and CEO of Kroger. “Restock Kroger is the blueprint for this transformation.

“We are strengthening the Kroger ecosystem by reducing costs and investing the savings in our associates, technology, and price to grow units, traffic and share,” he said. “Leveraging our store, logistics and data assets in turn creates incremental new profit streams, which then further redefines the customer experience. In this way, our new growth model will be a virtuous cycle.”

Highlights from the company’s Restock Kroger initiative include digital sales growth of more than 60 percent.

The company also announced a partnership with the Walgreens pharmacy chain to test its Kroger Express and Home Chef meal kit concepts. In Northern Kentucky, Kroger is installing its Kroger Express format in 13 Walgreens stores, while in the Chicago area, approximately 65 Walgreens locations will be offering Home Chef meal kits.

Kroger lowered its net earnings guidance to $3.80 to $3.95 per diluted share for 2018. The previous range was $3.88 to $4.03 per diluted share. The company maintained its net operating earnings guidance range of $2.00 to $2.15 per diluted share.