UPDATE 2-Dollar General earnings top Street view, shares up

Tue Jun 8, 2010 8:45am EDT

* EPS ex-items 42 cents vs Street view 34 cents

* Same-store sales up 6.7 pct

* Raises full-year profit forecast

* Shares up 3.8 pct (Adds forecast, company comments, share move; previous dateline NEW YORK)

CHICAGO, June 8 (Reuters) - Discount retailer Dollar General Corp (DG.N) reported a higher-than-expected quarterly profit and raised its full-year earnings forecast as consumers turn to the chain to save money on food and other staples.

The company, majority-owned by private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co [KKR.UL], also bought goods at lower prices. Shares of Dollar General rose 3.8 percent in premarket trading.

Low-priced retailers like Dollar General and Family Dollar Stores Inc (FDO.N) have benefited as consumers hit hardest by high unemployment and the sluggish U.S. economy remain on tight budgets. At times, the companies' success has also come at the expense of discount giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N).

Dollar General's results came as luxury retailer Neiman Marcus Group [NMRCUS.UL] posted a third-quarter profit, reversing a year-earlier loss, helped by higher sales of full-priced goods [ID:nN04137935].

Together, the reports reinforced the idea that the U.S. consumer base is becoming increasingly split during the recovery from the financial crisis, with those at the higher end more willing to spend again, while those at the lower end continue to be squeezed by high unemployment and gasoline prices.

Dollar General, which prices most of its merchandise below $10, said net profit in the fiscal first quarter ended April 30 rose to $136 million, or 39 cents a share, from $83 million, or 26 cents a share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, earnings were 42 cents a share, beating analysts' average forecast of 34 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Sales rose 11.9 percent to $3.11 billion, topping expectations. Same-store sales rose 6.7 percent, helped by an increase in customer traffic and a greater amount of merchandise bought during those visits.

For the year, Dollar General now expects earnings of $1.62 to $1.69 a share before one-time items, up from its previous forecast of $1.55 to $1.63. (Reporting by Brad Dorfman and Dhanya Skariachan, editing by Maureen Bavdek and John Wallace)

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