EARNINGS of Puregold Price Club, Inc. jumped 17% in the first quarter, as consumers began panic-buying before the lockdown was implemented in mid-March.

In a statement on Friday, the listed grocery operator said its consolidated net income in the January-to-March period rose to P1.76 billion from P1.51 billion last year.

Consolidated net sales from Puregold and S&R stores increased 17% to P40.95 billion. Puregold stores accounted for 77% of total sales, while S&R shopping warehouses and pizza stores made up the remainder.

The company said its same-store sales growth, or the growth in sales for its existing stores, unexpectedly rose to 14.4% for Puregold and 5.1% for S&R.

“(The growth in sales) in this period is driven by higher consumer spending and pantry loading prior to the (lockdown) as well as the low inflation environment in 2020,” it said.

Luzon island was placed under strict home quarantine in mid-March due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. This prompted shoppers to buy items in bulk to limit the frequency of their grocery runs.

Operating income of Puregold stood at P2.97 billion during the period, up 15% from in the same three months last year.

The company has 443 stores in its portfolio at the end of March, consisting of 384 Puregold stores, 20 S&R shopping warehouses and 39 S&R pizza stores.

Shares in Puregold at the stock exchange fell 35 centavos or 0.76% to P46 each on Friday. — Denise A. Valdez