Lowe's Companies Inc. on Wednesday reported that its sales increased over 11% in the first quarter ending May 1.

Mooresville-based Lowe’s reported first quarter sales of $19.7 billion, compared to $17.7 billion in the first quarter of 2019.

The company reported net earnings of $1.3 billion and diluted earnings per share of $1.76 for the quarter ending May 1, compared to net earnings of $1 billion and diluted earnings per share of $1.31 in the first quarter of 2019.

Marvin R. Ellison, Lowe's president and CEO, said the strong results in the first quarter continued into May, reflecting benefits of the company’s retail fundamentals strategy, improvement in executing it and the resiliency of the Lowe’s home improvement business model. Online sales through Lowes.com sales increased 80% in the quarter.

"In late February, we shifted our priorities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and immediately focused on how best to serve the needs of our communities during this unprecedented time,” said Marvin R. Ellison, Lowe's president and CEO.

“Our highest priority remains the health and safety of our associates and community, and we have demonstrated that commitment in the first quarter through an investment of $340 million, including support for healthcare workers and first responders.”

Ellison said Lowe’s enhanced the safety of its operations by shortening store operating hours in early March to increase cleaning and restock shelves.  He said operational changes were made to facilitate social distancing while stores were open.

Lowe’s also:

• made two special payments of $300 for full-time hourly associates and $150 for part-time hourly associates to help with unexpected expenses, totaling about $145 million;

• increased pay by $2 per hour for the month of April for front-line associates;

• recognized $87 million in “Winning Together” profit-sharing bonuses to front-line associates, which includes an incremental $24 million payment based on above-target store performance;

• offered 14 days of emergency paid leave for all associates needing it;

• offered up to four weeks of emergency paid leave for those at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19;

• closed all stores on Easter Sunday, to provide associates time off with their families;

• offered telemedicine benefits to all employees and their families;

• provided two extra weeks of paid vacation to salaried front-line managers;

• made incremental donation to Lowe's Employee Relief Fund;

• provided face masks and gloves to all employees;

• stocked in-store food pantries so employees could have easier access to food during work and to take home;

• launched Command Center as a single point-of-contact for store operations;

• implemented remote working for store support center associates

• increased third-party cleaning services and enhanced cleaning during operating hours;

• provided hand sanitizing stations in areas throughout the store, including entrances and exits;

• added social distancing ambassadors to manage customer traffic flow and monitor store traffic to limit customers based on store footprint, in line with regulatory requirements;

• encouraged social distancing through new signage, including floor markers, directional traffic arrows and overhead announcements;

• installed plexiglass shields at all point-of-sale registers;

• made substantial updates to store floor layouts to further support social distancing, such as opening up aisle space by removing displays and shelving and setting up one-way traffic flows in higher-traffic areas;

• launched curbside pickup, so customers can be served without coming inside the store;

• changed delivery procedures to safeguard customer and associate health, including by leaving items outside. Provided delivery drivers with face masks and gloves, as well as additional training;

• hired more than 100,000 front-line workers for the spring season;

• committed $50 million in charitable contributions, to support our communities in their pandemic response, which includes a $10 million donation in essential protective products for medical workers.

Lowe’s also suspended share repurchases, with no more repurchasing expected this year.

As of May 1, Lowe's operated 1,970 home improvement and hardware stores in the U.S. and Canada, representing 207.8 million square feet of retail selling space.

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