Walmart, Home Depot and Kohl’s on May 19, 2020 became the first major retailers to report the full impact of COVID-19 on financial operations. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Walmart becomes a lifeline and online sales surge 74%

Same-store sales rose 10 per cent at U.S. Walmart stores

NEW YORK — Walmart became a lifeline to millions of people as the coronavirus spread and its surging profit and sales during the fiscal first quarter topped almost all expectations.

Online sales in the U.S. jumped 74%, fueled by a rush on canned foods, paper towels and other crucial supplies needed as people sheltered in place. Same-store sales rose 10% at U.S. Walmart stores on strong sales of food, health and wellness goods.

Costs soared as well, $900 million in all related to the pandemic.

Cash bonuses issued to all hourly workers reached $755 million and Walmart upped pay by $2 per hour at its warehouses. It rolled out an emergency leave policy and spent money on shields at checkout lines, as well as new signage to control the flow of customers in stores.

Walmart pulled its guidance for the year, citing the chaos of the pandemic. It also pulled the plug on Jet.com, an online startup that it bought for more than $3 billion in 2016 as it sought to ramp up online operations to compete with Amazon.com.

Walmart, Home Depot and Kohl’s on Tuesday became the first major retailers to report the full impact of COVID-19 on financial operations, and revealed the vast disparity between those allowed to keep their doors open during the outbreak, and those that were not.

Home Depot, another critical supply line for those sheltering at home, reported strong sales and $850 million in additional costs related to COVID-19, mostly to compensate its workers.

Kohl’s, with it stores closed, swung to a $541 million loss and revenue tumbled more than 40%. J.Crew, J.C. Penney and Stage Stores have also remained closed. Already in a weakened state before the pandemic, all three sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this month.

Target and Macy’s will release their financial results this week as well.

There was already a broadening gap between big box stores and mall-based chains that had struggled follow customers online. The crisis has accelerated that trend, increasing the dominance of big box players while pushing clothing chains further into peril.

Even when the virus loosens its grip, industry analysts are unsure of what the post-pandemic response will be from consumers when it comes to fitting rooms or even walking into stores.

U.S. retail sales tumbled by a record 16.4% from March to April, according to the latest government figures. Those sales, with the unemployment rate now at 14.7%, the highest since the Great Depression, are likely to remain subdued.

Roughly 36 million people have sought unemployment assistance in the past two months.

The shift in discretionary spending leaves Walmart and companies like it in a strong position. The company has more than 3,000 locations for grocery pickup and 1,600 locations that offer grocery delivery. Last fall, it launched “Delivery Unlimited,” a fee-based program that offers unlimited grocery delivery.

This month, the company launched Express Delivery, which gets orders to a customer’s home in less than two hours. The program has been tested in 100 stores since mid-April and will be expanded nearly 2,000 stores in the following weeks.

Walmart had profit of $1.40 per share. Earnings, adjusted for non-recurring gains, were $1.18 per share. That well exceeds the per-share earnings of $1.10 that Wall Street was looking for, according to a survey by Zacks Investment Research.

Revenue of $134.62 billion in the period, also exceeding Street forecasts by almost $1 billion.

Walmart’s share rose more than 4% in premarket trading Tuesday. Its stock is up 7% so far this year.

By The Associated Press

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

There were 410 COVID-19 cases recorded in Alberta Wednesday. (File photo)
Alberta records 410 COVID-19 cases Wednesday

Central zone dropped to 160 active cases

Shaun Isaac, owner of Woodchucker Firewood in Trochu, is awaiting a new shipment during a firewood shortage in the province. All of the wood he has left is being saved for long-time customers who need it to heat their homes. (Contributed photo).
Firewood shortage in central Alberta caused by rising demand, gaps in supply

‘I’ve said “No” to more people than ever’: firewood seller

file photo
Maskwacis RCMP investigate pedestrian fatality

Collision on Highway 2A causing fatality still under investigation.

Shaela Dansereau/ The Pipestone Flyer
City of Wetaskiwin cases rapidly climbing

City of Wetaskiwin reporting 11 active cases of COVID-19

Royal Alexandra Hospital front-line workers walk a picket line after walking off the job in a wildcat strike in Edmonton, on Monday, October 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta labour board orders health-care staff who walked off the job to go back to work

Finance Minister Travis Toews said in a news release that he was pleased with the labour board’s decision

Husky Energy logo is shown at the company’s annual meeting in Calgary on May 5, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Husky pipeline spills 900,000 litres of produced water in northwestern Alberta

The energy regulator says environmental contractors are at the site

A raccoon paid a visit to a Toronto Tim Hortons on Oct. 22, 2020. (shecallsmedrew/Twitter)
Who are you calling a trash panda? Raccoon takes a shift at Toronto Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons said animal control was called as soon they saw the surprise visitor

Sharon Hickin, general manager of the Days Inn Sylvan Lake and the new Lake House Diner, poses for a photo outside the new restaurant. Photo by Megan Roth/Sylvan Lake News
Pandemic puts extra hurdles in place for new Sylvan Lake businesses

Over the past seven months numerous new businesses have opened in Sylvan Lake, despite the pandemic

Rachel Notley, leader of Alberta’s official Opposition, speaks in Edmonton on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. Notley says the government needs to sharply ramp up the number of contact tracers if it wants to get a handle on the rising number of COVID-19 cases. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta Opposition calls for more COVID-19 contact tracers as case numbers rise

Alberta has about 800 tracers, and chief medical health officer Dr. Hinshaw says more are being recruited

Royal Alexandra Hospital front-line workers walk a picket line after walking off the job in a wildcat strike in Edmonton, on Monday, October 26, 2020. Hospital and health-care workers who staged a one-day illegal walkout returned to work Tuesday while politicians swapped recriminations and accusations in the house over the dispute. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta health staff return to work, surgeries resume after one-day walkout

AHS estimated 157 non-emergency surgeries, most of them in Edmonton, had to be postponed as a result of the walkout

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes his way to provide an update on the COVID pandemic in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. Canada has reached a grim milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic, surpassing 10,000 novel coronavirus deaths. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Alberta COVID deaths pushes Canada past milestone of 10,000 deaths

Canada crossed the threshold of 5,000 deaths on May 12, a little over two months after the first was reported

Cases in Ponoka (East Ponoka County) as of Oct. 27. (alberta.ca)
Diagnosed cases of COVID-19 at three Ponoka businesses

Town ‘strongly encouraging’ residents to wear non-medical masks in public

Most Read