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Albertsons says it added 11 million customers last year, expects growth to slow post-pandemic

Boise-based Albertsons Companies announced its earnings for the full fiscal year of 2020, as well as the fourth quarter. The company’s fiscal year doesn’t run with the calendar, and ended on February 27th.

For the full year, Albertsons said it saw sales jump 16.9% over the prior year. As we’ve reported, the grocery giant saw signifcant gains during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many of those sales increases continued throughout the year.

It also put an increased focus on digital efforts during the year, with micro-fulfillment warehouses, new delivery options, touchless kiosks… and even robots. Those efforts contributed to an increase in digtal sales of 258%, though the company didn’t say how much of its overall sales are digital.

[Work to start on another new Albertsons store]

11 million new customers

CEO Vivek Sankaran appeared on CNBC this morning and said Albertsons saw a huge influx of new customers.

“Going through the pandemic, we gained a lot of new business, including 11 million new customers that we can identify, Sankaran said. “In 2021 we will hold on to those customers, but (we don’t expect) the same level of sales as the economy reopens.”

For the full year, Albetsons saw net income of $850 million, based on total revenue of $69.7 billion. That’s up from $62.6 billion in sales during 2019. The company also says it continued to pay down debt during the year – from 2.9x leverage to 1.5x leverage.

[Albertsons partners with Google to drive tech innovation for local shopping]

4th quarter loss, looking ahead

For the fourth quarter, it took a loss for the first time in recent memory. The company notes it made a $449.4 million payment to its pension plan, which moved the company out of profitability territory to a loss of $144 million for the quarter. But when the pension numbers are figured out, net income was $347 million for the quarter, up from $194 million the year before.

For 2021, Albertsons says it expects to grow sales between 6-7.5%, down from the growth it saw in 2020. It’s touting a “two-year stacked growth” metric of 9.4-10.9%.

“We’re going to think of the year ’21 as a two year stack,” Sankaran told CNBC, noting the 11 million new customers. “We will finish 2021 stronger than the trajectory would have been if we hadn’t gone into the pandemic. So it’s a re-baseling as we go into 2021.”

Last year, Albertsons spent $1.63 billion on capital, including the digital projects and remodels of 409 of it stores – or about 17% of its 2,277 locations. It expects to spend $1.9 billion to $2 billion on capital this year.

Don Day - BoiseDev editor
Don is the founder and publisher of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow. Contact him at [email protected].

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