On the call: Safeway CEO Steve Burd

Safeway Inc. reported its first-quarter results Thursday. The grocer's revenue rose, largely because of higher gasoline prices.

CEO Steve Burd spoke during a conference call with investors about trends he sees in consumer's spending.

QUESTION: I was just wondering, following on the volume discussions and looking at the demographics of your customer base, are you seeing any differences in how your higher-income demographic or higher-income customers are able to absorb increased prices versus the middle and slightly lower?

BURD: I don't think there has been any material change there. I think I have been talking for a couple of quarters about the bifurcated recovery. And so you find people at the upper end of the income scale that are making a lot more discretionary spending than others. But I don't think anything really changed for us in the quarter.

You know, fuel gets a lot of attention. But one of the things to keep in mind about fuel — unlike groceries where some credit cards are used — fuel, they are all credit or debit cards. And in our company, credit would be twice as high on the transaction side in fuel that it would be in grocery.

And I think consumers have come to believe that fuel is something that goes up and then comes down. And so it's a lot easier, I think, for consumers to absorb that temporarily. If it becomes permanent, that is much tougher.


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