Coronavirus-related panic buying helped buoy Walmart’s Q1 2020 profits. Photo: Courtesy

Panic buying connected to the coronavirus lockdown helped bring Walmart greatly improved first-quarter profits.

Walmart de Mexico, the biggest retailer in Mexico, reported a net profit of 10 billion pesos / US$420 million, up from 8.7 billion pesos a year ago.

The results were attributed to high demand for basic goods in an emergency period that was not part of the “ordinary course” of business, and led to 20,500 new hires.

Walmex, as it is also known, reported revenue of 171.3 billion pesos in the period, up from 151.7 billion pesos a year ago.

Mexico registered its first cases of COVID-19 at the end of February, triggering a spate of panic buying nationwide.

The Mexican government has since urged people to stay at home, but Walmart’s delivery app keeps the store in play. Walmart de Mexico said e-commerce sales grew 68% in the quarter as daily orders doubled, and the retailer added more than 1,700 workers to handle the demand.

The chain has also taken measures to protect customers, spraying shopping carts, setting aside special hours for shoppers over 60, and releasing their volunteer baggers.

Even so, e-commerce now represents 1.6% of total sales in Mexico, down from 2% in the fourth quarter last year, Reuters reported.

Walmart de Mexico opened nine stores in the quarter, bringing the total to 3,416 locations and helping boost the net result.

In Central America, Walmart grew everywhere except Honduras, where the government shut down the stores.

With information from Reuters

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