Publix saw a $1 billion boost in sales revenue in the first quarter because of COVID-19-related buying, but it lost $387.4 million on its investments for the quarter, also stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.
LAKELAND — Buoyed by roughly $1 billion in coronavirus purchases as the state of Florida locked down, Publix Super Markets Inc. reported a 16% increase in sales revenue for the first quarter.
But as with most splurges, a hangover usually follows.
“Most supermarkets, including Publix, experienced huge ‘stock-up’ trips, and will see some slowness in those shopped-down categories as consumers work through their stocked-up inventory,” said Jon Springer, a supermarket industry analyst and executive editor of Grocery Business, an industry publication.
“Since social distancing, grocers may be seeing fewer trips, but sales are still up as average rings are bigger and supermarkets absorb most of the business that had been going to restaurants, schools and other venues.”
Sales may level off eventually, he added, but at a higher level than before the coronavirus.
“It’s a net gain in share of stomach/wallet for grocery,” Springer said in an email to The Ledger.
Publix reported $11.2 billion in sales revenue for the quarter ending March 28, according to a company statement released Friday. It attributed about $1 billion of sales, or 10.3% of the quarterly total, to COVID-19-related buying.
The coronavirus pandemic was declared a national emergency on March 13, the statement noted.
But supermarket shelves were emptied of many items — such as toilet paper, hand sanitizers, bleach, household cleaners and water — for weeks before then.
First quarter sales this year increased from $9.7 billion in the same quarter in 2019, the company reported. Same-store sales for the quarter rose 14.4%.
Same-store sales is a key retail metric accounting for sales at stores open at least one year. It measures a company’s ability to grow by attracting new sales and shoppers apart from opening new stores.
Publix saw a quarterly profit of $667.3 million (94 cents per share), a 32% decline compared to $981 million ($1.37 per share) in last year’s first quarter.
The surge in sales revenue could not overcome losses in the company’s investments as financial markets took a beating in recent months because of the coronavirus-related economic shutdown.
“Net earnings (profits) and earnings per share were impacted by net unrealized losses and gains on equity securities (stocks and bonds),” the statement said.
Publix took a paper loss of $387.4 million on its investments in this year’s first quarter compared to a $314.3 million gain a year earlier.
If not for the investment losses, Publix’s first quarter profit would have jumped 29% to $956.2 million ($1.35 per share) compared to $741.7 million ($1.04) in the same quarter last year.
Publix increased its stock price 2.5% to $50.10 per share effective Friday compared to $48.90 per share in the fourth quarter.
Publix stock is not publicly traded and is held by current and former employees, including members of the board of directors. Independent financial analysts determine the Publix stock prices based on a comparison of financial performance in a “peer group” of other supermarket chains: Ahold Delhaize, Kroger and Weis Markets.
“Never before have we experienced a more challenging time,” Publix CEO Todd Jones said in the statement. “Our associates’ efforts to serve our customers and communities have been nothing short of extraordinary. I want to thank our associates and couldn’t be more proud to serve alongside them.”
Publix employs more than 200,000 people in 1,242 stores in seven Southeastern states. Florida is its largest market with 807 stores followed by Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia.
Kevin Bouffard can be reached at email@example.com or at 863-802-7591.