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Costco, hit especially hard by social-distancing rules, sees 90% bump in online sales


Costco has been open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s not what it used to be. There are social distancing lines out in front of stores, masks are mandatory and some merchandise is not available. This week, the retailer releases its first quarter results and outlines how it sees the road ahead.

You’d think people stocking up on household goods would be great for Costco. And it was, initially. But, in April, the company’s sales dropped for the first time since 2009.

Tim Campbell, director of retail insights at Kantar Consulting, said Costco has been hit harder than other retailers by social-distancing policies. 

“If you just walk into a Costco, say, versus walking into a Sam’s Club on a normal day, pre-COVID, you would see that the Costco locations tend to be significantly busier,” Campbell said.

He said if Costco has to curb traffic, that might affect its revenue more than some other retailers. At the same time, Costco’s e-commerce sales rose 90% in April.

Phil Lempert, who runs Supermarket Guru said the temptation for Costco might be to ramp up its delivery options as more people shift to contactless shopping.

“But I think that their model is not going to be delivery. I think that their model is going to be where I go online, I can order my groceries and I pick them up,” Lempert said.

He said the company will have to invest in a more robust online interface if it wants to better compete with Amazon and even Walmart, though.

Which businesses are allowed to reopen right now? And which businesses are actually doing so?

As a patchwork of states start to reopen, businesses that fall into a gray area are wondering when they can reopen. In many places, salons are still shuttered. Bars are mostly closed, too, although restaurants may be allowed to ramp up, depending on the state. “It’s kind of all over the place,” said Elizabeth Milito of the National Federation of Independent Business.

Will you be able to go on vacation this summer?

There’s no chance that this summer will be a normal season for vacations either in the U.S. or internationally. But that doesn’t mean a trip will be impossible. People will just have to be smart about it. That could mean vacations closer to home, especially with gas prices so low. Air travel will be possible this summer, even if it is a very different experience than usual.

When does the expanded COVID-19 unemployment insurance run out?

The CARES Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in March, authorized extra unemployment payments, increasing the amount of money, and broadening who qualifies. The increased unemployment benefits have an expiration date — an extra $600 per week the act authorized ends on July 31.

You can find answers to more questions here.

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