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Retail

Not Again? Costco Imposes Purchase Limits On Toilet Paper Amid Signs Of Panic Buying

Costco Wholesale has announced it is reinstating purchasing limits on some key items, including toilet tissues and bottled water, spurred by panic buying from customers amid rising COVID-19 cases.

A resurgence in COVID-19 cases had led to stocking up of household essentials last year during stringent pandemic-led lockdowns, forcing the company to put limits on purchases of key items.

While there was a shortage of cleaning supplies even last year, transportation issues this year are causing delays in deliveries to stores despite suppliers having plenty of stock, Costco chief financial officer Richard Galanti said in an earnings call.

Transportation And Labour Costs

The pandemic-driven port congestion and labor shortages have forced retail chains including Costco to spend more on transportation and labor, digging into their margins. Costco said it was paying six times for containers and shipping due to price increase on items shipped overseas.

Shares in Costco, which beat market expectations for quarterly revenue on strong demand for fresh foods, snacks, household items and jewellery, were up about 1% after the bell.

People returning to social events and outdoor activities following the rollout of vaccines has boosted demand for sporting goods and jewellery at Costco stores and helped offset some of the slowdown in sales of groceries following last year's lockdown-induced panic buying.

Sales Performance

Comparable sales, excluding the impact of fuel and currency fluctuations, jumped 9.4% in the fourth quarter, compared with estimates of an 8.07% rise, according to Refinitiv IBES data. This follows on from a strong third quarter for the business.

Total revenue rose to $62.68 billion (€53.43 billion) in the fourth quarter from $53.38 billion (€47.2 billion) a year earlier. Analysts on average had expected revenue of $61.30 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

US sales were 14.9% higher in the quarter, while e-commerce sales rose by 11.2%, the group said.


News by Reuters, additional reporting by ESM. For more A-Brands news, click here. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: European Supermarket Magazine.

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