By Denise A. Valdez , Senior Reporter

PUREGOLD Price Club, Inc. posted 4% lower earnings in the third quarter as its sales started slowing down when the lockdown rules in key cities were eased.

In a regulatory filing on Wednesday, the listed grocery operator said its net income for the July-to-September period stood at P1.65 billion, down from P1.73 billion a year ago.

Its net sales were likewise flattish, inching up 1.09% to P39.17 billion, while cost of sales were slightly higher, climbing 1.35% to P32.71 billion.

On a nine-month basis, Puregold’s net income rose 11% to P5.05 billion, attributable to the 20% earnings growth it recorded during the first six months of the year.

Its year-to-date net sales grew 10% to P121.14 billion, while cost of sales expanded 11% to P101.29 billion.

“[The growth] was principally driven by the continuous organic expansion of the group’s grocery retail outlets on the back of a sustained strong consumer demand. This has been augmented by combined management strategies and programs to boost revenue contributions from both the base stores as well as new stores,” Puregold said in its filing.

It noted it rolled out trade discounts such as rebates and conditional discounts during the nine-month period, which drove up sales from both new and existing stores.

The primary drivers of the company’s revenues are its Puregold stores, S&R membership shopping warehouses and S&R pizza stores.

“We think that the slowdown of revenue growth was attributed to the consumer sentiment as they are now less worried… We’ve seen no more panic-buying and consumers don’t stock goods in their homes as much as they did during the (strict lockdown),” Philstocks Financial, Inc. Research Associate Claire T. Alviar said in a text message.

While lockdown rules have not been completely lifted since mid-March, the Philippine government has started relaxing protocols since June, allowing consumers to go to supermarkets with more ease than in the early months of the coronavirus outbreak.

While this resulted in a slower growth for Puregold’s net sales in the third quarter, Ms. Alviar said it may likely pick up in the last quarter of the year due to holiday-driven spending and the continuous reopening of the economy.

Shares in Puregold at the stock exchange closed lower by 20 centavos or 0.47% on Wednesday at P42.20 apiece.