Atlanta’s Home Depot sales up during pandemic

With much of America at home – either working or not – the Home Depot racked up strong sales growth in the first quarter of this year, the company reported Tuesday.

Home Depot, the largest company based in Georgia, had $28.3 billion in sales during the quarter, 7.1% more than the same period of last year, while the average customer's bill jumped 11.1%.

Company net earnings were $2.2 billion, down from $2.5 billion during the same quarter a year ago, a dip the company attributed to higher costs.

Despite the pounding that the economy has taken, and the massive layoffs caused by shutdowns aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus, Home Depot is confident in the future, said Craig Menear, company chief executive. "We believe that Home Depot is uniquely positioned to weather Covid-19."

However, with the virus still uncontained and government policy still uncertain, the company canceled all previous forecasts about the financial results expected for this year, he said. “This is a rapidly evolving and incredibly fluid environment.”

The company took a number of actions during the quarter to adapt to the crisis. Among them:

  • significantly cutting cuts in store hours, largely to give store workers more time to sanitize surfaces.
  • canceling a high-profile spring promotion.
  • expanding time off for all workers, with additional paid leave for older employees, and giving weekly bonuses to hourly workers, along with higher overtime pay and expanded benefits.

The company took an $850 million charge to pay for those actions.

The shutdown spurred some changes in consumer behavior that played out on Home Depot's balance sheet, said Richard McPhail, the company's chief financial officer.

“In the last two weeks of April and continuing into the first week of May, we have seen double-digit … sales growth as customers turn to repair and home improvement projects,” he said.

Home Depot has more than 400,000 employees and 2,293 stores.