5 Retail Winners During the COVID-19 Crisis

The COVID-19 crisis—and the quarantines and business closures that have trailed it—has been devastating for many retailers.

It’s been the final straw for a few major retailers—J. Crew, Neiman Marcus, and J.C. Penney have all filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection since the pandemic hit. And department stores including Macy’s and Nordstrom have laid off hundreds of workers and have announced plans to close a significant number of stores in the coming months.

Small business owners lucky enough to land a government-backed Paycheck Protection Program loan (the rocky rollout of which was defined by widespread frustration and anxiety) are hopeful that with reopening afoot they will be able to survive the storm.

But there’s no doubt that some small and midsize retailers won’t ever reopen, because they didn’t get the help they needed from the government, were in dire straits before COVID-19, or were operating with paper-thin margins that couldn’t be maintained with operations shuttered (or some combination of the three).

But there are retail winners in this unprecedented time. People are shopping—but mainly for essentials.

Topping the list of thriving retailers are, as expected, large sellers including Amazon and Walmart that ship groceries and essential items directly and widely. But there are some surprise performers, too: Sellers of home goods and furniture, for one, are also reporting an uptick in revenue.

Here are five retailers that have had solid sales during COVID-19.

Amazon

As many of us were driven indoors by mandatory quarantines—and anxiety around in-person grocery shopping reached fever pitch in certain parts of the country—Amazon became a go-to essential seller of grocery and household supplies (not to mention sweatpants).

The company saw $75.5 billion in revenue in the first quarter of 2020, and a net income of $2.5 billion. That’s down slightly from the fourth quarter of 2019, which saw $87.4 billion in revenue (but then, last quarter was the holiday season). North American sales were up 29% in the first quarter of 2020 to $46.1 billion.

Walmart

Walmart has net the largest sales of any North American company during the pandemic—and it has bested competitors Amazon and Target handily.

U.S. online sales jumped 74% in the first quarter, and the company posted comparable sales growth of 10%. Overall revenue grew 8.6% to $134.6 billion, topping analysts’ $130.3 billion forecast. The company laid out around $950 million in upgrades, emergency costs, and bonuses but made up for the losses in blockbuster sales.

Target

For the fiscal first quarter ended in May, Target saw 10.8% growth in same-store sales and beat its analysts’ estimated $19.04 billion in quarterly revenue to rake in $19.62 billion. Online sales spiked 141% during the quarter, and the company experienced 16.5% month-over-month sales growth in April.

Demand for same-day fulfillment options—in-store pickup, curbside pickup, and shipping through recently acquired Shipt—surged 278% during the three-month period.

Lowe’s

What to do when you’re stuck in your house for weeks on end? For many, the answer was “fix it up.” And that urge to home-improve put sales at hardware store Lowe’s on an upward trajectory. The retailers’ sales spiked 11.2% during the first quarter, while comparable sales in its U.S. home-improvement category grew 12.3%. And website orders increased 80% from the previous quarter.

Wayfair

Furniture retailer Wayfair’s results for the quarter were a mixed bag, but mainly positive: The e-comm company posted a wider net loss, but its sales surged 20% as trapped-at-home Americans with disposable income looked around their living rooms, decks, and bedrooms, and thought, “I need that chair/desk/lamp/bed/side table/sofa.” The retailer took in $2.33 billion in sales in Q1, an announcement that increased its stock price by more than 20%.

(Photo: Pexels)

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