Chewy (NYSE:CHWY), the online pet store which counts PetSmart as its majority owner, had a good year even before the coronavirus pandemic pushed people to order more essential items online. 

The company grew net sales by 40% to $4.85 billion for the full year. That actually exceeded its fourth-quarter growth, with the company closing its year with $1.35 billion in sales, a gain of 35%.

A dog holds up an empty bowl.

Dogs still need to eat. Image source: Getty Images.

Will pandemic circumstances help Chewy?

Chewy faces a difficult battle for customers against (NASDAQ:AMZN). The current pandemic may help Chewy gain more users, as Amazon has extended shipping times on items it deems non-essential or that are out of stock.

But pets need to eat no matter what's happening in the world at large. They also still need toys and other supplies, like litter for cats. With people going out less (or not at all) and Amazon struggling to meet the needs of its human customers, it's very likely that Chewy will benefit.

"While 2019 closed on a high note, and 2020 got off to a strong start, the world changed dramatically with the coronavirus outbreak," CEO Sumit Singh said in a press release. "In times like these, we know how special and comforting the bond is between humans and pets, and we devote ourselves every day to supporting those special relationships."  

Will customers stay?

If Chewy meets pet owners' needs during a time of crisis, it's very likely that at least some of those people will stay customers. That should help the company stay on a growth track even after the coronavirus pandemic has passed and the world returns to some form of normal.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.