METRO Retail Stores Group, Inc. incurred a P126.47-million net loss in the first quarter, a reversal of its P7.98-million income year on year, as lower customer foot traffic and the trend of prioritizing essential goods led to lower revenues.

In a statement on Wednesday, the company said its topline for the period declined by 18.9% to P6.95 billion from the P8.57-billion revenues seen last year. Blended same-store sales also went down by 21.4%.

Total food retail business went down by 14.7% to P5.43 billion from P6.37 billion, while the company’s general merchandise segment dipped by 30.2% to P1.48 billion from P2.12 billion.

The listed grocery operator temporarily halted its supermarket and department store operations in mid-March after the country reported a surge in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infections.

“These were gradually opened, but were faced with customer traffic constraint since community quarantine is still in effect and as consumers prioritized the purchase of essential goods in general,” the company said in a regulatory filing on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, operating expenses for the period amounted to P1.48 billion, declining by 19.1% from P1.83 billion last year as the company reduced costs and improved efficiency measures.

The company finished the quarter with an EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) of P236.74 million.

“Along with the challenges and uncertainties brought about by the pandemic are opportunities for growth that we intend to tap. With the right strategy, people and partnerships, we are focusing on long-term sustainable recovery and growth,” Metro Retail Stores President and Chief Operating Officer Manuel Luis C. Alberto said in a statement on Wednesday.

Metro Retail Stores opened three more shops in Cebu and Leyte and reopened its flagship Metro Ayala Center Cebu – Department Store, which brought its total network to a total of 60 stores.

The company said it is eyeing to open another store in Bacolod come June.

On Wednesday, shares of Metro Retail Stores at the stock exchange closed unchanged at P1.28 each. — Keren Concepcion G. Valmonte