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Costco Confirms a Huge Coronavirus Sale Boost

By Demitri Kalogeropoulos - Mar 6, 2020 at 10:34AM

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Demand for cleaning supplies and non-perishable grocery items surged late last month.

Costco Wholesale Corporation (COST 0.52%) has seen customer traffic surge as Americans stock up on supplies ahead of a potential coronavirus outbreak. On Thursday evening the warehouse retailer reported quarterly earnings results that also included sales trends for the month of February, which included a huge boost related to the health scare.

A man shops in a warehouse store.

Image source: Getty Images.

What happened?

Customer traffic shot higher by 9% in February, with most of that surge coming in the last week of the month, which saw coronavirus headlines dominate the news. The chain saw elevated demand for shelf-stable grocery products, along with cleaning supplies, sanitation wipes, and disinfectants. The extra traffic depleted inventory for some products and Costco also issued sporadic limitations on purchasing quantities. "It's been a little crazy this past week," CFO Richard Galanti said in a conference call with investors.

What's next?

It's likely that the extra demand simply pulled forward sales that Costco would have seen in March, but investors will get that month's final numbers on April 5. In the meantime, the retailer to date isn't seeing any negative disruption in either its demand trends or its ability to fill its warehouses. Those trends could change given the fluidity of the situation, though. "We'll see what tomorrow brings," Galanti said.

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