Home Depot sees robust sales during pandemic

Home Depot has built three distribution facilities in Locust Grove and is one of huge companies leveraging the surge of online orders during the pandemic. Among those considering a moratorium on warehouse growth is Henry County. This location on Highway 155 has two Home Depot distribution centers in Locust Grove. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Home Depot has built three distribution facilities in Locust Grove and is one of huge companies leveraging the surge of online orders during the pandemic. Among those considering a moratorium on warehouse growth is Henry County. This location on Highway 155 has two Home Depot distribution centers in Locust Grove. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

In a pandemic-distorted economy, Home Depot raked in $132 billion in revenue from February 2020 to January 2021, an increase of nearly 20% over the previous fiscal year.

The public health crisis triggered massive spending on home improvements, adding dramatically to demand for materials and equipment from both professionals and do-it-yourselfers.

“For many of our customers, home has never been more important,” Home Depot chairman and chief executive Craig Menear said in a conference call with analysts and reporters.

The fourth fiscal quarter was the company’s strongest, with sales of $32.3 billion and net earnings of $2.5 billion. Net earnings for the year were $12.9 billion.

But the ongoing pandemic has driven the company’s expenses much higher. Home Depot spent more than $2 billion on pay increases for workers and about $240 million on personal protection equipment, extra cleaning of stores and other safety protocols.

For many businesses, the economic fallout has been disastrous, especially those depending on in-person interactions.

But, for those with robust e-commerce operations, the year was one of expansion.

Home Depot benefited from the trend to online as well as the sudden out-of-office exile of many white-collar workers, said Menear. “We see a continued blend of the physical and digital worlds,” he said.

As white collar professionals work from home, they tend to find renovation projects, Home Depot officials said.

While the pandemic roiled the labor market and led to millions losing their jobs, the vast majority of the unemployed are lower-wage workers who tend to be renters.

Home Depot’s revenue growth has come without a slew of store openings. Last year, the company expanded by just five stores, officials said.

The massive chain, which is headquartered in Vinings, now has more than 400,000 employees and 2,296 retail locations, most of them in the United States.

Unlike in previous years, Home Depot declined to offer corporate analysts any predictions on how the company will perform financially in coming months.

Too many uncertainties — the unpredictable course of the pandemic, the speed of the vaccine roll-out and the amount of federal spending — cloud the economic outlook for the coming year, Home Depot officials said.

“We are not able to predict how consumer spending will evolve,” said Richard McPhail, the company’s chief financial officer.

In recent weeks, two other Atlanta-area corporate icons — UPS and Delta Air Lines — also said that the current situation is too uncertain for them to make predictions.

Home Depot snapshot

Headquarters: Vinings

Employees: 400,000

Stores: 2,296

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Home Depot revenues

Fourth quarter: $32.3 billion, (up 25.1% from year earlier)

Fiscal year 2020: $132.1 billion (up 19.9% from previous year)

Source: The Home Depot

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