BJ’s Wholesale Club has joined Walmart, Target and other essential retailers that are succeeding in the face of the COVID-19 crisis: the company posted a 27% comparable sales increase, excluding gasoline, for Q1 2020. BJ’s also reported a massive 350% increase in e-Commerce sales during the period.
However, like many other retailers, the challenge of operating under these conditions came with a significant price tag: selling, general and administrative (SG&A) expenses rose to $590.4 million in Q1 2020, compared to $501.2 million in Q1 2019. The costs were primarily driven by safety measures such as protective equipment purchases, operational costs such as security and a $51 million investment in wages and bonuses.
“BJ’s Q1 was a ‘blowout’ quarter by any measurement, with a 27% increase in comparable store sales (excluding gasoline), driven by a 350% increase in online-oriented sales,” said Charlie O’Shea, Senior Retail Analyst at Moody’s in commentary provided to Retail TouchPoints. “As an essential retailer, with stores open with limitations, and with a mix that is heavily skewed towards consumables, BJ’s clearly benefitted from the surge in consumer demand for its products, and was able to effectively drive a doubling of operating income despite a $90 million increase in SG&A and the limitations on in-store traffic, as well as minimal contribution from its service businesses.”
BJ’s response to COVID-19 also has included an emergency paid leave policy, an employee relief fund and new operational standards such as mandatory PPE, traffic limitations and shorter store hours. The club also implemented an “Appreciation Hour,” when first responders and healthcare workers can shop during a designated period on Sundays even without a membership.
“Our top priority remains the health and safety of our members and team members during this challenging time and I am deeply thankful for the contributions of our dedicated team members this past quarter,” said Lee Delaney, President and CEO of BJ’s Wholesale Club in a statement. “While the coronavirus pandemic increased demand for our services, our team’s hard work and the capabilities we have built over the last four years have enabled us to thrive and deliver very strong merchandise comparable sales. Furthermore, we drove earnings and cash flow growth and invested in our team members and our business. These efforts will allow us to continue to build on this momentum and position ourselves for success over the long-term.”