Ahold generates large online sales gains for Q1

The triple-digit online sales growth for the period piggybacks off triple-digit online sales growth in Q4 2020, and Ahold gained further increases from its acquisition of Fresh Direct in the fall.
Dan Ochwat
Executive Editor
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Ahold Delhaize revealed a strong first quarter for its U.S. operations, driven mostly by a continued surge in online sales, up 135.2% for the quarter, year over year, building off a Q4 2020 report that saw an increase in digital sales of 128.5%.

When factoring in Ahold’s acquisition of Fresh Direct, the retailer said online sales were up 188.3% for the first quarter. Just this week, David McInerney, co-founder and CEO of FreshDirect, departed the e-grocer.

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The retailer saw a bump in same-store sales for the U.S. banners, up 1.7% excluding gasoline, driven by demand in January and February, according to the retailer. However, the numbers were impacted by a decline in March's comparable sales, which were unfavorably impacted by the lapping of significant consumer stock-up activity related to COVID-19 in 2020, when comparable sales excluding gasoline grew 33.8%. On a two-year comparable sales stack basis for Q1 2021, growth was 15.5%, a sequential acceleration versus the 13.5% growth in Q4 2020, and brand performance was led by Food Lion, Ahold said.

"We are pleased with the underlying Q1 performance in both the U.S. and Europe. The two-year comparable sales stack sequentially accelerated in Q1 2021 versus Q4 2020 in both the U.S. and Europe, as we've been able to retain a strong level of underlying consumer demand by continuing to adapt to the enduring consumer behavior changes, including increased working from home, preference for healthy and fresh products, and higher online demand,” said Frans Muller, president and CEO of Ahold Delhaize. 

“Our brands were well positioned to satisfy the changing needs and preferences of their customers, many of which were trends already developing prior to COVID-19. As these trends accelerated during COVID-19, our brands have evolved more quickly to adapt. Growth in our leading local omnichannel platform also sequentially accelerated, with nearly 190% net consumer online sales growth in the U.S. and nearly 80% growth in Europe in the quarter, at constant exchange rates,” he added.

Group net sales at Ahold were $22.2 billion, up 0.3% at actual exchange rates and up 5.8% at constant exchange rates, driven largely by 4.2% same-store sales growth excluding gasoline. Group comparable sales were positively impacted in part by demand related to COVID-19, particularly within Europe. To a lesser extent, comparable sales benefited by approximately 1.3 percentage points from favorable calendar shifts and a weather impact in 2021. On a two-year comparable sales stack basis, growth for the group sequentially accelerated to 16.4% in first quarter versus 13.7% in Q4 2020. Group net consumer online sales grew 103.3% in first quarter at constant exchange rates, aided by the FreshDirect acquisition, which closed on Jan. 5.