Walgreens grapples with coronavirus after early 2020 sales growth

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Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. said Thursday it is wrestling to figure out what the coronavirus will mean for its business.

"Given the many rapidly changing variables related to the pandemic, at this time [the company] is not in a position to accurately forecast the future impacts," Walgreens said Thursday in a statement on financial performance in its latest quarter.

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The drugstore operator reported stronger-than-forecast sales for the period, which ended Feb. 29, as consumers were starting to stockpile supplies. The company generated $35.82 billion in revenue, up about 4% from the year earlier and more than the $35.27 billion in sales that analysts polled by FactSet predicted.

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Earnings dropped to $946 million, or $1.07 a share, from $1.16 billion, or $1.24 a share, the year earlier. Gross profit fell amid rising expenses for its costs of goods.

The company said it earned an adjusted profit of $1.52 a share for the latest period, 6 cents more than forecasts.

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Walgreens has sought to navigate the coronavirus pandemic by offering more home delivery, working with Postmates to offer such services from 7,000 stores.

The company has also narrowed operating hours for stores, saying last month that Walgreens locations open 24 hours would shift to a 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. local-time schedule, in part to allow for more cleaning. It said last month it would begin to sell some nondrug items at drive-throughs.

The company has said it would pay bonuses to full- and part-time hourly employees staffing its stores and distribution centers.

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