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Publix reports leap in earnings as coronavirus cases surged

Sales spiked last year as more people cooked at home and hoarded toilet paper.
Shoppers walk through a nearly empty produce aisle at the Publix at Northeast Shopping Center in St. Petersburg on March 15, shortly after the coronavirus outbreak was declared a national emergency.
Shoppers walk through a nearly empty produce aisle at the Publix at Northeast Shopping Center in St. Petersburg on March 15, shortly after the coronavirus outbreak was declared a national emergency. [ JAMES BORCHUCK | Times ]
Published Mar. 2
Updated Mar. 2

The coronavirus outbreak has been very good to Publix.

The Lakeland-based grocer reported sales of $44.9 billion for the fiscal year that ended Dec. 26, a 17.7 percent increase from the prior year. Comparable store sales increased 16.6 percent, the company reported on Monday..

“It has been about a year since the start of the pandemic, and our associates’ efforts to serve our customers, communities and each other during this difficult time have been amazing,” Publix CEO Todd Jones said in a statement. “Now, by doing our part to administer the COVID‑19 vaccine, we are proud to help our communities take the next step to return to normal.”

Publix finished the year strong, even as people started making their return to restaurants instead of cooking at home and stopped hoarding toilet paper to the degree they did at the start of the pandemic.

Sales for the final quarter of the fiscal year that ended Dec. 26 were $11.2 billion, a 14.8 percent increase from $9.8 billion in 2019. Comparable store sales were up 13.4 percent. Earnings per share for the quarter increased to $1.47, compared to $1.11 in the same quarter of 2019.

The company estimates about $4.6 billion of its increase in sales for the year was driven by the pandemic. Net earnings for the fiscal year were estimated at about $4 billion last year, up from $3 billion the prior year.

Publix is a privately owned company. Its performance is based on audited financial statements reported to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

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