LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) — Publix’s corporate office said sales skyrocketed during the coronavirus pandemic.
The supermarket said its total sales for 2020 were $44.9 billion, a 17.7% increase from $38.1 billion in 2019. The company estimates that its sales increased about $4.6 billion, or 12% due to the pandemic.
Economists say, profit margins also soared. Grocery store profit margins are typically known to be tight.
“If you’re selling things at a faster rate, faster than you can restock shelves sometimes and you can refill bins, much less is wasted. You get higher profit margins because you’re selling a larger portion of everything you’re trying to sell,” said Dr. James Farrell, associate professor of finance and economics at Florida Southern College.
On March 1, the company’s privately traded stock price increased from $57.95 per share to $60.20 per share. Publix’s stock is only for sale to current Publix associates and members of its board of directors.
“It has been about a year since the start of the pandemic, and our associates’ efforts to serve our customers, communities and each other during this difficult time have been amazing,” said Publix CEO Todd Jones. “Now, by doing our part to administer the COVID-19 vaccine, we are proud to help our communities take the next step to return to normal.”
Experts don’t see the demand slowing down anytime soon.
“This early part of 2021 still feels a lot like 2020 so I don’t expect to see a lot of that shift away in that early part. Maybe the later half of 2021 when vaccinations are a little more widespread,” said Dr. Farrell.
With the financial windfall, critics are calling on Publix to do more for their workers.
“Publix gets to profit on the backs of the essential workers without any protection for the workers,” said Shawn McDonnell, president, West Central Florida Labor Council.
Publix employees are not unionized.
McDonnell, who does not represent Publix workers, would like to see Publix offer paid sick time to part-time workers.
It currently offers it to full-time employees. It offers health insurance to all employees.
“CEOs of major food and retail companies like Publix must finally accept their responsibility and provide hazard pay for these brave workers,” wrote United Food and Commercial Workers International Union President Marc Perrone in a statement.
Publix said it opted for permanent wage increases instead.
“During the pandemic, to recognize the efforts of our associates during this extraordinary time, we announced permanent pay increases in recognition of their commitment to serving our customers and communities,” said Publix director of communications Maria Brous in a statement.
Publix donated 18 million pounds of fresh produce to Feeding America during the pandemic, Brous said.