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Shoppers flock to Costco over coronavirus fears, analyst expecting sales boost


Shoppers visit a Costco Wholesale in Tigard, Ore., Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, after reports of Oregon’s first case of coronavirus was announced in the nearby Oregon city of Lake Oswego on Friday.

Gillian Flaccus | AP

Shoppers lined up in throngs at Costco stores across the country this weekend, stocking up on cases of water, trail mix, paper towels and other essentials in bulk, amid the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

At least one analyst is already anticipating Costco’s sales will see a boost, as a result, sending shares higher.

“We expect material comp benefits for Costco,” Oppenheimer analyst Rupesh Parikh said in a note to clients. “Our observations and conversations with store employees [and] management suggest a strong pickup in traffic starting Thursday through at least Saturday.”

However, customers stocking up this past weekend could also strip demand from the future, he said.

The water section at at Target in Gaithersburg, MD.

Andrea Goren

Costco shares were up more than 6% Monday morning. The stock had closed Friday down a little more than 4%, amid a broader sell-off. Shares have rallied more than 37% over the past 12 months. Costco has a market cap of over $123 billion, according to FactSet.

Costco historically has handled out-of-stocks well, Parikh added, which bodes well for the company in consumers’ mindsets, when they are thinking of where to shop in a pinch. Many shoppers are seemingly preparing for coronavirus to become more widespread in the U.S. A second death in the country from the virus was confirmed Sunday.

Across the U.S., hand sanitizer sales are up 73% for the four weeks ended Feb. 22, according to data pulled by Nielsen. Sales of medical masks have surged 319%. Nielsen added it doesn’t expect hand sanitizer sales to peak “for some time.”

An Oregon Costco location over the weekend ran out of toilet paper for the first time in its history, according to a local report.

A representative from Costco declined to comment.

The company is set to report earnings and February sales this Thursday, after market close.



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