U.S. shoppers snapped up bicycles and sewing machines during shelter-in-place mandates due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Walmart (WMT), the world’s largest retailer.
The big-box retailer reported stronger-than-expected first-quarter earnings on Tuesday, driven by a surge in e-commerce and higher traffic in stores for pantry staples and cleaning products. In addition to hard-to-find products like hand sanitizer and toilet paper, shoppers leaped for laptops, office chairs, and cleared fabric from the craft department.
On a conference call with analysts, CEO Doug McMillon said the first quarter in the U.S. started as expected. As the virus spread, the mix of sales shifted toward food and consumables, similar to what the company saw in China earlier this year.
In this first phase of shopping, McMillon explained that Walmart saw an “unprecedented demand” for paper goods, surface cleaners, and grocery staples.
“Many of these items were selling in two or three hours what we normally sell in two or three days,” he added.
After consumers stocked up their pantries, McMillon said shoppers entered a second phase, which he described as “entertaining and educating at home.”
“Puzzles and video games took off. Parents became teachers. Adult bicycles started selling out as parents started to join the kids,” McMillon said, adding that home office essentials and exercise equipment also picked up.
What’s more, DIY (do it yourself) emerged as a significant theme as customers picked up home improvement supplies to work on their outdoor and indoor living spaces and craft supplies for projects and side hustles.
“It was also clear a lot of people were taking a do-it-yourself approach as they bought items like bandanas and sewing machines to make masks,” McMillon said.
Toward the end of the first quarter, another phase emerged, which McMillon described as “relief spending.”
As stimulus checks from the CARES Act hit bank accounts, Walmart saw a pop in spending across discretionary categories such as apparel, televisions, video games, sporting goods, and toys.
CFO Brett Biggs said Walmart in the U.S. is off to a “solid start” in May, driven by this stimulus spending, which the retailer doesn’t expect to stay at these levels throughout the second quarter.
Julia La Roche is a Correspondent at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.
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