Our call today will begin with some opening comments from Howard Levine, Chairman and CEO. Then Michael Bloom, President and COO, will share an operational update; and Ken Smith, CFO, will run through our financial results and outlook for the rest of fiscal 2012. [Operator Instructions]Before I introduce Howard, I'd like to announce that we intend to host an analyst day in New York on July 18. We'll share more details with you as we get closer to the date. Now I'd like to turn the call over to Howard Levine. Howard? Howard R. Levine Thanks, Kiley, and good morning, everyone. This morning, we reported our 16th consecutive quarter of double-digit EPS growth. Our investments to drive greater shareholder value are delivering results, and I want to thank all of the Family Dollar team members who have been working hard to serve our customers better and deliver this performance. Revenue growth is accelerating. Year-to-date, we've opened 184 new stores, and we are on track to achieve the upper end of our plan of 450 to 500 new stores this year. In addition, our investments to expand key consumable categories are gaining momentum and driving greater comp store growth. We are delivering a more compelling shopping experience for our customers. Since launching our renovation program last year, we have refreshed more than 1,300 stores through our renovation effort, providing both existing and new customers with an improved shopping experience and a broader merchandise assortment. By the end of fiscal 2012, we expect that nearly half of the chain will reflect a newer, more competitive shopping experience. And we have rolled back many of the assortment changes to the rest of the chain so that all of our customers can take advantage of our improved selection and great values. Customers are responding well to these improvements. We are expanding our share of wallet with both lower and more middle-income customers, and we are increasing trip frequency. Sales in renovated stores continue to significantly outperform stores that have not been renovated. Customer satisfaction in renovated stores continues to improve. And overall customer value perception is increasing across the chain.
As we look to the second half of fiscal '12, we are beginning to see some signs that the economy is slowly starting to improve. Yet consumers still face some headwinds, especially from rising gas prices, which could strain discretionary purchases and impact the pace of recovery. Regardless of whether the economic environment is improving or contracting, Family Dollar is well positioned to drive profitable growth. While our results have outperformed many other retailers during the recent recession, I would note that in every instance over the last 40 years, as the economy has improved, Family Dollar has benefited. Historically, as customers have seen their incomes expand, they have increased their spending, particularly in discretionary categories, at Family Dollar. Whether or not this economic recovery is similar to past recoveries remains to be seen. Regardless, I believe that value and convenience will remain an important driver for consumers. That is why we are making significant investments to broaden our assortment and drive market share.Since the beginning of fiscal 2011, we have expanded our basic SKU assortment by about 15%. Most of these new items have been in food and HBA, which have significant potential to drive market share with little markdown risk. For example, in February, we added 300 new food items to our assortment and eliminated 150 underperforming SKUs. These new items, combined with the additions we introduced last April, have helped to drive an 18% sales increase in the food category so far in fiscal 2012. We believe we have significant opportunity to increase average sales per square foot. Broadening our assortment in key consumable categories will enable us to become more relevant and satisfy more of our customers’ shopping trips. But it will also require additional inventory investment. In the second half of fiscal 2012, we will add even more new merchandise to our stores to enable us to satisfy more shopping trips and drive greater revenues. Read the rest of this transcript for free on seekingalpha.com