Publix Super Markets tallied big sales and earnings gains for its 2020 fourth quarter and fiscal year, fueled by booming consumer demand for food and groceries amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the quarter ended Dec. 26, sales climbed 14.8% to $11.2 billion from $9.8 billion a year earlier, with same-store sales rising 13.4% year over year, Publix reported yesterday. The Lakeland, Fla.-based grocer estimated that the pandemic’s impact lifted sales for the period by 8.7%, or about $850 million.
Fiscal 2020 sales came in at $44.9 billion, up 17.7% from $38.1 billion a year ago. Comparable-store sales surged 16% from fiscal 2019. The coronavirus crisis boosted fiscal 2020 sales by 12.1%, or about $4.6 billion, Publix said.
At the bottom line, Publix posted fourth-quarter net income of $1 billion, or $1.47 per share, compared with $789.3 million, or $1.11 per share, in the 2019 quarter. Adjusted net earnings, which exclude net unrealized gains on equity securities in 2020 and 2019, were $918.5 million, or $1.32 per share, versus $656.6 million, or 93 cents per share, in the prior-year period.
For the full year, net income totaled $4 billion, or $5.67 per share, compared with $3 billion, $4.21 per share, in 2019. On an adjusted basis, excluding net unrealized gains on equity securities in 2020 and 2019, net earnings for fiscal 2020 were $3.7 billion, or $5.27 per share, versus $2.6 billion, or $3.67 per share, a year earlier.
In its annual 10-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Publix said profit from incremental sales driven by higher customer purchases of food and cleaning supplies during the pandemic “more than offset the additional costs incurred.” The latter included additional payroll, transportation and other costs to meet escalated sales demand and implement safety measures for employees and customers.
Publix reported that its stock price rose $60.20 per share on March 1 from $57.95 per share on Nov. 1. An employee-owned company, the supermarket chain doesn’t publicly trade its shares, which are available for sale only to current Publix associates and board members.
During 2020, Publix opened 39 supermarkets — including nine replacement locations — and remodeled 154 stores, the company said in the 10-K filing. Fourteen supermarkets were closed, but five are slated to be replaced on-site. As of the fiscal year close on Dec. 28, the retailer had 1,264 supermarkets, up from 1,239 at the start of the year. Net new supermarkets added 1.2 million square feet in 2020, a gain of 2.1%.
Publix said in its annual report that, as of the fiscal 2020 year-end, 20 supermarkets were under construction in Florida, four in Georgia, three in Tennessee, two in Alabama and two in South Carolina. The company projects $1.6 billion in capital expenditures for 2021, up from $1.23 billion in 2020.
“It has been about a year since the start of the pandemic, and our associates’ efforts to serve our customers, communities and each other during this difficult time have been amazing,” Publix CEO Todd Jones said in a statement. “Now, by doing our part to administer the COVID‑19 vaccine, we are proud to help our communities take the next step to return to normal.”
Publix has been one of the most active supermarket chains in providing COVID-19 vaccinations, having administered over 300,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia as of Feb. 12.
On Tuesday the company opened its online registration system for COVID vaccinations for appointments at 58 in-store pharmacies in South Carolina for seniors, long-term care residents and staff, caregivers for medically fragile children, and state and local government employees and contractors involved in COVID-19 immunizations and testing. That followed announcements of vaccine availability at all 730 of its in-store pharmacies in Florida (for seniors only) and at 12 pharmacies in Georgia (for first responders, health care workers, seniors and their caregivers, and long-term care residents and staff) last week.
Currently, Publix operates 1,266 stores in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.