“The first quarter of 2020 was unlike anything we have ever seen before,” said Ahold Delhaize CEO Frans Muller.
Mr. Muller was talking about COVID-19’s affect on Ahold’s supermarkets around the world, of course. He said that “unprecedented demand” triggered by the virus lifted global sales more than 12% in the first quarter of fiscal 2020, including nearly 14% comparable sales growth in the U.S. With more customers ordering groceries online, the company expects online sales in the U.S. to increase more than 50% for the year, up from the previous forecast of 30%.
During the first quarter, which ended March 29, all U.S. banners – Stop & Shop, Giant Food, The Giant Company, Food Lion and Hannaford – experienced double digit comp-sales growth, boosted by a 33.8% jump in March.
U.S. online sales totaled $357 million for the quarter, up 42.3% from a year ago. The increase comes “despite considerable product availability issues early in the coronavirus crisis, which caused the U.S. to close click-and-collect operations under most banners for some portion of March,” according to Ahold Delhaize CFO Natalie Knight.
During the first quarter Ahold acquired three warehouses from C&S Wholesale Grocers as part of a three-year, $480 million investment to transition its U.S. supply chain to a self-distribution model. In addition, the company said it expects to finalize its acquisition of Long Island, NY supermarket chain King Kullen. The deal had been announced in January 2019 with a closing anticipated to be in the first half of this year. The deal is now expected to close during the second half of this year.
Ahold Delhaize has approximately 7,000 stores in the U.S., the Netherlands, Belgium, and Central and Southeastern Europe.