Big Lots did say it had softer than expected customer traffic during the holiday shopping season.
The pandemic has been a sales boon for many food retailers, and that includes Big Lots, which not only reported record fourth quarter comps but also provided a sunny first quarter outlook.
For the period ended Jan. 30, Big Lots reported net income of $98 million, or $2.59 per diluted share, above the company's guidance of $2.40 to $2.50 per diluted share. Net income for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2019 was $93.8 million, or $2.39 per diluted share. Net sales for the fourth quarter totaled $1,738 million, an 8.1% increase compared to $1,607 million for the same period last year, with the growth resulting from a 7.9% increase in same-store sales, and sales growth from new and relocated non-comp stores, offset by a slightly lower average store count year-over-year. The comp increase was a deceleration from the third quarter when the company reported a 17.8% increase.
Big Lots joined the small club of retailers offering guidance for the rest of the year, saying it expects to achieve diluted earnings per share in the range of $1.30 to $1.45, based on a low-single-digit same-store sales increase.
"I am pleased to report that our fiscal fourth quarter ended strongly, with a record fourth quarter comparable sales increase despite softer than planned traffic in December and inventory and supply chain challenges during the quarter," said Bruce Thorn, president and CEO of Big Lots. We also delivered another stellar quarter of growth across our ecommerce and omnichannel platforms with sales increasing over 130%. Throughout the quarter, our strategic investments and the nimbleness of our teams allowed us to serve our customers better than ever, as well as adjust to market dynamics to deliver excellent top-line and bottom-line results."
Big Lots teamed up with Instacart to provide same-day delivery of food, household supplies and general merchandise during the pandemic. Online sales increased 130% during the fourth quarter.
The company said it does expect that its financial performance in 2021 will be significantly affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, including the impact of continued evolution in consumer shopping behaviors, and potential impact of further government stimulus.
"Fiscal 2020 was the strongest year in the history of Big Lots, occurring against the backdrop of an unprecedented year of uncertainty for our nation and industry. The results were the culmination of the tremendous efforts of our associates in our distribution centers, our stores, and our corporate headquarters, combined with the ongoing and successful rollout of our Operation North Star strategies. Beyond our 2020 results, we believe these strategies position us for ongoing success, supported by our steadfast focus on customer service, our assortment of everyday essentials and stay-at-home products, and our growing customer file. During 2021, we will continue the roll-out of our Lot and Queue Line programs to the balance of our stores, expand our offerings under the Broyhill brand, further scale our greatly enhanced ecommerce capabilities, and accelerate new store openings. With the dedication and commitment of our 37,000 associates to drive these initiatives, we're confident that 2021 will be another successful year in the evolution of Big Lots," Thorn said.
For fiscal 2020, net income totaled $629.2 million, or $16.11 per diluted share. Excluding non-recurring items detailed in this release, adjusted net income for the full year period ended Jan. 30, 2021, totaled $287.3 million, or $7.35 per diluted share (non-GAAP), compared to adjusted net income of $144.4 million, or $3.67 per diluted share (non-GAAP), for fiscal 2019.
Net sales for fiscal 2020 totaled $6,199 million, a 16.5% increase compared to $5,323 million last year, with the increase resulting from a comparable sales increase of 16.1% and sales growth in high volume new and relocated non-comp stores.
With 1,404 retail stores, Columbus, Ohio-based Big Lots is No. 46 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2020 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.