LAVAL, Quebec —Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. reported its fuel volume decreased 18.3% in the United States during the initial core period of the coronavirus pandemic while merchandise revenue dipped only 0.5%.
The decline in fuel sales from Feb. 3 through April 26, Couche-Tard's fiscal fourth quarter, was counterbalanced by a gross margin increase of 28.37 cents per gallon in the U.S. to 46.88 cents total.
"We had a strong fourth quarter with positive traffic trends to begin with before we endured significant decline in traffic and fuel volumes with the pandemic stay-at-home orders implemented across our global footprint," said Brian Hannasch, president and CEO. "Our customers changed their shopping behaviors, moving to larger baskets with more impulse and emergency items, and we innovated quickly to meet their desire for less touchpoints while visiting our locations."
For the quarter, net earnings were $576.3 million compared with $293.1 million during the fourth quarter of fiscal 2019. Adjusted net earnings were $521.0 million compared with $289.0 million for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2019.
For the full fiscal year, Couche-Tard saw U.S. merchandise sales of $2.43 billion compared to $2.47 billion in 2019, a decline of 1.5%. In total, U.S. gasoline revenue dropped 30.9% from $6.23 billion in fiscal 2019 to $4.30 billion in 2020.
"This year, Couche-Tard became a better, and stronger company," Hannasch said. "We had an exceptional year overall, both financially and operationally. We stayed on track with our strategic goals including growing organically across the network by making significant strides in the rebranding of our sites and fuel brand, beginning the rollout of our new food program in the U.S., pushing dynamic pricing initiatives, and improving our customer experience across the globe.
"Our agile, decentralized model and advancements in operational excellence allowed us to face the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 crisis and fare far better than many other businesses."
Laval, Quebec-based Alimentation Couche-Tard operates about 6,000 convenience stores across the United States. It ranked No. 2 on CSP's Top 202 list of the largest c-store chains in the U.S.