What happened

Shares of retailer Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY) were moving sharply higher on Thursday after the company reported quarterly earnings that were well above Wall Street's consensus estimate.

As of 11:45 a.m. EDT, Bed Bath & Beyond's shares were up 19.1% from Wednesday's closing price.

So what

In a report after the markets closed on Wednesday, Bed Bath & Beyond said that it earned $0.38 per share in the quarter that ended on March 2, the fourth quarter of the company's 2019 fiscal year. That was a 68% decline from the year-ago period but well above the Wall Street consensus estimate of just $0.20 per share.

Net sales fell 6.1% to $3.1 billion, slightly above the $3 billion Wall Street estimate. Comparable-store sales fell 10% and online sales fell 16% on weaker sales during the holiday season.

A Bed Bath & Beyond store.

Image source: Bed Bath & Beyond.

As of the end of the quarter, Bed Bath & Beyond had $1.4 billion in cash, including the proceeds of a $236 million loan from its credit line.

In a conference call for analysts and investors, CEO Mark Tritton noted that the quarter ended about two weeks before the widespread adoption of social distancing in North America in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The company's overall sales have been down 42% in the last few weeks, he said.

But despite the overall decline, he said that online sales have nearly doubled since Bed Bath & Beyond closed most of its stores in early April. He noted that sales of bread-making machines, coffee makers, and vacuum cleaners have been especially high.

Now what

As of right now, the company hopes to begin reopening stores on May 2, but executives stressed that the situation is still fluid. The company declined to offer any financial guidance for the upcoming fiscal year, citing the ongoing uncertainties around the COVID-19 pandemic.