Facing tough year-over-year comparisons from early pandemic panic-buying, Weis Markets saw sales growth fall off and net earnings decline in its fiscal 2021 first quarter.
Net sales for the quarter ended March 27 totaled just over $1 billion, up 2.1% from $985.8 million a year earlier, Weis Markets reported yesterday after the market close. Comparable-store sales edged up 1.4% for the period.
At the bottom line, fiscal 2021 net income fell 9.1% to $24.3 million, or 90 cents per share, from $26.7 million, or 99 cents per share, a year ago.
In the fiscal 2020 first quarter, which ended March 28, 2020, Sunbury, Pa.-based Weis Markets had added more than $100 million in net sales, which jumped 12.4% to $985.8 million from $876.7 million in the fiscal 2019 quarter. Same-store sales rose even higher, climbing 12.8%. Net earnings surged 86% to $26.7 million, or 99 cents per share, from $14.3 million, or 53 cents per share, in the prior-year period.
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic on March 11, and the United States followed two days later by declaring coronavirus a national emergency on March 13. U.S. shoppers, though, had already begun flocking to supermarkets in the latter part of February to stockpile groceries and other essential supplies such as sanitizers, cleaning products, face masks and disposable gloves as reports of virus cases became more widespread.
“The World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) a pandemic on March 11, 2020, which resulted in restaurant, business and school closings while other companies transitioned to working remotely. The result was a record surge in demand for food retailers,” Weis Markets Chairman, President and CEO Jonathan Weis said in a statement.
“Our first-quarter 2021 results remained significantly elevated in absolute terms and were in line with expectations, with sales up 14.8% and net income up 69.6% compared to the pre-pandemic levels in first-quarter 2019, which is a more appropriate baseline for comparison,” he noted.
Overall for the 52-week fiscal 2020 period, ended Dec. 26, 2020, Weis Markets reported net sales of $4.11 billion, up 16.1% from $3.54 billion in fiscal 2019, when sales had risen 8.4% year over year. The 2020 gain reflected 16.4% growth in comp-store sales and a 155% jump in e-commerce sales.
“We are extremely proud of what our associates accomplished throughout the pandemic,” Weis added. “During these challenging and evolving times, we remain well-positioned to meet the needs of our customers and communities while continuing to deliver value to our shareholders.”
Also yesterday, Weis Markets announced it plans to invest $135 million in capital expenditures for 2021. Projects will range from new stores and fuel stations to store remodels, technology upgrades and over 1,000 smaller store improvement. One new store and one remodeled location have been opened so far this year.
Overall, Weis Markets operates 198 supermarkets in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, West Virginia and Virginia.