Categories Consumer, Earnings Call Transcripts

BJ’s Wholesale Club Holdings, Inc (BJ) Q1 2023 Earnings Call Transcript

BJ Earnings Call - Final Transcript

BJ’s Wholesale Club Holdings, Inc (NYSE: BJ) Q1 2023 Earnings Call dated May. 23, 2023

Corporate Participants:

Cathy ParkVice President, Investor Relations

Bob EddyPresident, Chief Executive Officer

Laura FeliceChief Financial Officer

Bill WernerExecutive Vice President, Strategy and Development

Analysts:

Kate McShaneGoldman Sachs — Analyst

Edward KellyWells Fargo — Analyst

Chuck GromGordon Haskett — Analyst

Simeon GutmanMorgan Stanley — Analyst

Robby OhmesBank of America — Analyst

Peter BenedictBaird — Analyst

Mike BakerD.A Davidson — Analyst

Mark CardenUBS — Analyst

Presentation:

Operator

Hello, everyone and welcome to the BJ’s Wholesale Club Q1 2023 Earnings Conference Call. My name is Carla, and I’ll be coordinating your call today. After the speakers’ remarks, there will be a question-and-answer session. [ Operator Instructions ] I will now pass the call over to your host, Cathy Park. Please go ahead.

Cathy ParkVice President, Investor Relations

Good morning and thank you for joining BJ’s Wholesale Clubs first quarter fiscal 2023 earnings conference call. On the call today are Bob Eddy, President and Chief Executive Officer; Laura Felice, Chief Financial Officer; and Bill Werner, Executive Vice-President, Strategy and Development. Please remember that during this call we may make forward-looking statements within the meaning of the federal securities laws. These statements are based on our current expectations and involve risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from our expectations, described on this call. Please see the Risk Factors sections of our most recent Form 10-K and Form 10-Q filed with the SEC for a description of those risks and uncertainties. Finally, please note that on today’s call we will refer to certain non-GAAP financial measures that we believe will provide useful information for investors. The presentation of this information is not intended to be considered in isolation or as a substitute for the financial information presented in accordance with GAAP. Please refer to today’s press release and the latest investor presentation posted on our IR site for a reconciliation of these non-GAAP financial measures to the most comparable measures prepared in accordance with GAAP.

With that, I will turn the call over to Bob.

Bob EddyPresident, Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, thank you for joining us today. It’s a pleasure to be here today to discuss the results that we reported this morning. In the first quarter our business continued to perform at a high level, demonstrating the power of our member centric model and the warehouse club channel. At our Investor Day in March, we shared with you several significant milestones resulting from the company’s incredible transformation including a record 90% membership renewal rate surpassing $1 billion and adjusted EBITDA and nearly tripling our adjusted EPS since fiscal 2018. We achieved these results by steadfastly focusing on value driving market share gains. We have created a growing and profitable digital business and we have accelerated our footprint expansion. We’ve built on these milestones in the first quarter with the launch of our cobranded credit card program. This program underpinned by our strong value prop. It’s designed to drive higher member lifetime values, traffic and market share gains. These initiatives combined with a strong operational performance enabled us to report a record first quarter and adjusted EBITDA. Merchandise comparable club sales, which exclude gas sales were up 5.7% in the first quarter as our food and sundries businesses remains robust with comp sales up 8%. Our consistent focus on value once again resulted in strong growth in sales per member across each of our income cohorts. Further, more than half of our merchandise comps were driven by growth in traffic. With value being top of mind for our members. Our teams have worked diligently to solidify BJ’s as the first choice for their weekly household needs. And we are pleased to have grown market-share across our core business in the first quarter, both on a year-over-year and a pre-COVID basis. As a reminder, our market share is about 50 basis-points higher than it was pre COVID. We recognize that in today’s environment, consumers remained selective in their shopping behavior and members are more conscious as they continue to work to stretch their dollars.

Additionally, unfavorable weather trends dampened seasonal demand in the first quarter. As a result, our general merchandise and services comp was down 8% year-over-year. Our merchandise gross margins improved dramatically in the quarter as supply chain headwinds that we faced last year, became tailwinds this year, driven by declining diesel and ocean freight costs. Also recall that inflation was on the upswing in the first quarter of last year causing us to invest in key items, which further pressured our margins. We also gained share in our gasoline business in the first quarter with comp gallons up year-over-year, compared to the broader market, which is still trending down in volumes. Though profit per gallon was not nearly at last year’s levels. It was slightly higher than expected in the first quarter. The combination of our comp sales growth, merchandise margin improvement and better than expected gas profits contributed to adjusted EBITDA growth of approximately 16% to a first quarter record of $257 million. We are very pleased with the strength of our operating performance this quarter. As we navigate choppiness in the near term, we remain confident in our longer-term growth prospects, fueled by our strategic priorities, which are improving member loyalty, driving an unbeatable shopping experience, delivering value conveniently through digital and growing our footprint.

Let me spend a moment on each. Membership is by far the most important product that we sell and it’s also our most valuable asset. We currently serve over 6.8 million members. And in the first quarter, we grew our member count by approximately 5% year-over-year. Our acquisition efforts across new and existing clubs as well as growth in digital acquisition has contributed to the increase. In addition to overall member growth, we are improving the quality of our membership. As many of you know, we launched our new program credit card on February 27, I believe it’s the best program in retail today. Remember when we launched our credit card program nine years ago, we committed to reinvesting all of the benefits back into member rewards. We took the same approach this time around applying even better economics back into the program. We took that approach because our credit card members have almost two times greater lifetime values, then members without a co-brand credit card. I think it’s safe to say that they’re worth the investment. We could not have asked for a better partner in Capital One. Our combined teams executed the transition very well, surpassing our admittedly high expectations. We’re only about 90 days since launch. So it’s still early days, but as we sit here today, we have successfully executed the conversion of our existing accounts and have now transitioned to grow in the program.

Let me put a finer point on the success of the transition with some data. We transitioned about 1.5 million accounts to Capital One. And to date we have activated over three quarters of those accounts, outperforming our expectations. Furthermore, we have added over 115,000 new credit card members since launch and we are excited to see our members experiencing more rewards from the program. Also, as you know, in addition to the co-brand value proposition improvements we also took the opportunity to provide additional benefits for club plus members to that’s our $110 membership fee without the credit card. The gas discount that we implemented as part of the credit card program back in 2014 has been so well received with our members that we now extended a $0.05 per gallon discount to our club plus members as well, making us the only club store with an instant gas discount across all higher tier membership programs. This means about 40% of our gas gallons sold include a higher tier member discount on top of our market leading gas prices. We believe the new program will help drive continued growth in our higher tier membership penetration, which in turn will yield greater member of lifetime value.

Over the course of the last year, we foreshadowed that we may experience a temporary decline in higher tier membership penetration driven by the transition to the new co-brand credit card program. I’m pleased to report that despite the transition our higher tier penetration held steady at 38% in the first quarter, this was up about two points year-over-year due in part to double digit percentage growth in our $110 membership. Our dedication to growing membership in both size and quality of resulted in several milestones last year including a record renewal rate of 90%. This is the ultimate measure of member loyalty and we expect to maintain the strength this year as members continue to seek value in their shopping. All of these efforts have translated to approximately 6% year-over-year membership fee income growth in the first quarter. Ensuring the best shopping experience for our members is crucial to how we strengthened membership loyalty. There are various elements to delivering a great shopping experience and we believe that we differentiate ourselves by consistently showcasing unbeatable value to our members. Value is paramount in our business and we are always striving to offer the best assortment to our members at the best prices.

Last year in a period of high inflation, we remain dedicated to this goal, making strategic investments to improve our pricing position by 130 basis-points across our competitive set. We kept the investments coming in the first quarter of this year, particularly in our key value items such as our own Wellsley Farms water, which we offer at about a 28% savings versus grocery and mass competitors. As this water example suggests we are earning our members trust through the quality and reliability of our own brands. Wellsley Farms and Berkley Jensen, which we offer at significant savings. We are pleased to be able to offer more affordable high quality alternatives for our members, especially in this current time when inflation while moderating remains elevated.

In fact our own brand sales growth in our sundries and grocery divisions more than double that of the overall market during the quarter contributing about a point of growth in the first quarter own brand penetration year-over-year. We are well on our way to our goal of 30% penetration. Members who are engaged in our own brand spend more visit us more often and are therefore better members. Our third strategic priority is driving convenience through digital. Through our app and website we have improved upon the ways in which members engage with us over the years. And members preferences for these platforms continue to grow.

During our March Investor Day, we mentioned that our digitally enabled members to spend nearly 70% more on average than club only members and are more loyal members as indicated by higher renewal rates. Our digitally enabled comp sales grew 19% in the first quarter to approximately 10% of our net merchandise sales. This growth was led by the convenience of [indecipherable] and curbside as well as the growing adoption of same day delivery. The club business is structurally advantaged to win with digital and we will lean into convenience initiatives that we believe will deliver outsized value to our members.

Finally, we have dramatically accelerated our real estate plans and remain focused on sustaining this trajectory going forward. Our new club openings, since fiscal 2016 have outperformed openings in prior years. For example, these new clubs on average have delivered double digit percentage point increases in renewal rates and higher tier penetration in their first year. This year, we continue to expect to open around 11 new clubs. As you know, we opened two new clubs in the first quarter and I expect to make our entry into our 19th state next month in the Nashville market. Our commitment to bringing unbeatable value to our members remains a powerful advantage in times like these. As a result, we believe we are well positioned to continue growing our topline and gain market share anchored by strength in our grocery businesses. Our newly launched credit card bolsters are already strong value prop. As part of our merchandising transformation new general merchandise assortments will begin to arrive at our clubs in the back half of this year. Ultimately, we will be there for our members reliably delivering the products and services that they want and need at a great value. In order to deepen loyalty reinforce our brand and drive long-term growth.

Before I wrap-up, I’d like to acknowledge and thank our team members for their dedication to serving our members. And carrying for the communities in which we operate to our team members who are listening-in today. Thank you for your hard work. Your efforts continue to make a significant impact on the success of our company.

I will now turn it over to Laura to provide more details on our results and outlook for the rest of the year.

Laura FeliceChief Financial Officer

Thank you, Bob. Before I begin, I’d like to reiterate Bob’s gratitude for our team members across our clubs, club support center and distribution centers. Thanks to their hard work and commitment at BJ’s, we have maintained strong momentum in our first quarter results. Net sales for the first quarter were $4.6 billion, a 5% increase over the prior year. Our first quarter total comparable club sales increased 2% year-over-year. Stronger merchandise sales offset the decline in gas sales dollars. Despite growth in gas volumes over last year average retail price per gallon fell in the low teen range. Merchandise comp sales, which exclude gas sales increased by 5.7% and more than half of this was driven by traffic. Our 2-year comp stack was 9.8% exhibiting slight growth on a sequential basis. The impact of inflation on our sales moderated through the quarter.

As Bob mentioned earlier, our first quarter comp in our grocery perishables and sundries division grew by approximately 8% in the first quarter as our members continue to rely on BJ’s to restock on household essentials. On a 2-year stack this division grew about 15% and accelerated from the fourth quarter, which grew just under 14% on a two year stack. We gained market share year-over-year during the quarter and our overall share remains well above pre-COVID levels. Our general merchandise and services comp decreased by 8% for the first quarter and was also down about 18% on a two year stack. In general merchandise the broader industry faced a slower and wetter start to the spring season amid an increasingly to consumer environment. That being said, we drove pockets of strength in areas such as apparel, we’re a cleaner and more relevant assortment was well received by our members, resulting in a 5% comp in the quarter.

Our digital offerings have made our member shopping experience more convenient than ever. Digitally enabled comp sales in the first quarter grew 19% year-over-year and approximately 90% of our digitally enabled sales were fulfilled by our clubs in the first quarter with services like 25:12 ______OPEC and same day delivery. We remain committed to improving convenience by increasing our level of digital engagement with our members over time. In our gas business, our comp gallons grew slightly year-over-year in the first quarter. This was in-line with our expectations as we continue to sustain and build upon our significant share gains from the past two years. Our gas profits, while lower year-over-year marginally outperformed our internal plans, driven by slightly better than normal gas margins in the quarter. Membership fee income or MFI grew approximately 6% to a $102.5 million in the first quarter and continues to underscore the progress we have made improving our business. We are pleased with our membership trends atop the records we achieved last year including higher tier penetration, easy renewal and first year and tenured renewal rates. I also share Bob’s enthusiasm for the attractive value proposition that our newly launched co-branded credit card program brings to our members and the growth opportunities that lie ahead.

Moving onto gross margins excluding the gasoline business our merchandise gross margin rate improved by 100 basis-points year-over-year, primarily due to a much anticipated and welcome relief and supply chain costs that challenged our business last year. As Bob mentioned earlier, we also lapped the timing of price investments we’ve made to combat accelerating inflation, which negatively impacted our margins last year. SG&A expenses for the quarter were $689.3 million the year-over-year increase was primarily attributable to our new unit expansion and other continued investments to drive our strategic priorities. On unit expansion, I’d offer these two reminders. First, new clubs will continue to have a levering effect as they ramp and mature and second our growth profile this year is weighted to own clubs elevating our depreciation expense. We continue to expect our SG&A to de-lever slightly through the rest of the year. Our first-quarter adjusted EBITDA grew by approximately 16% to a record first-quarter of $257 million, largely reflecting our sales and merchandise gross margin growth. Finally, our adjusted EPS was $0.85, down approximately 2% year-over-year despite our strong operating performance.

This was largely due to a $21.6 million unexpected tax expense, approximately half of which should have been applied in prior periods in material amounts. This elevated or effective tax-rate in the first quarter to 32.6% compared to 21.1% in the prior year quarter. Turning to our capital structure, we ended the first-quarter with $848 million of debt and 0.8 turns of net leverage, which is consistent with the fourth quarter of last year. We work to fortify our balance sheet over the past five years and expect to maintain this strength in the future. As we allocate our capital going-forward, we will continue to be flexible in our approach, but our priority remains growing our business. Investments to support membership digital and our real estate growth plans will be funded by our cash flows and enabled by our strong balance sheet. We continue to return excess cash to shareholders through share repurchases. In the first-quarter, we bought back over 200,000 shares at approximately $15 million and have over $300 million remaining under our current authorization. Let me now touch on our current outlook for the year. The last time we spoke, I noted the uncertainty of the macro backdrop and its impact on the broader consumer demand. As we sit here today, we see a consumer that is continuing to visit and spend in our stores. On the margin, while they are spending more with us, they are also being more choosy with their dollars and allocating those dollars in favor of necessities. That said, I have also previously expressed our confidence in our advantaged business model, execution of strategic priorities and commitment to delivering value, which should all contribute to continued growth in our core business. These sentiments still ring true today. As such, we continue to expect our fiscal 2023 comparable club sales excluding gas to grow in the 4% to 5% range towards the lower end with strength in our food business offsetting a more conservative view around general merchandise performance. We continue to expect inflation to moderate through the rest of the year. We are also confident in the ongoing transformation of our merchandising. We currently see the second quarter merchandise comps in the low-single digit range and we expect comps in the back half of the year to be slightly stronger than the second quarter.

Moving down the P&L our outlook on MFI and margin for the remainder of the year are unchanged. We expect that our Q1 year-over-year MFI growth rate will be the highest in the year. On merchandise gross margin, we believe our rate of improvement will moderate meaningfully as we progress through the year. In our gas business, we continue to expect slight growth in comp gallons for the full-year. As for profitability, we continue to believe that we will settle to more normalized and structurally more profitable gas margins as compared to prior years. Our assumptions have clearly materialized in the first quarter, but with profit per gallon to date, running a touch better than what we had contemplated as normal at the start of the year. As a result, we are becoming more optimistic about fiscal 2023s profitability running slightly higher than we originally expected. That being said, we will still face our toughest comparisons in gas prices, volumes and margin across the second and third quarters of this year. A quick note on our tax-rate while first quarter taxes were higher than we anticipated at the start of the year, we expect our tax-rate to return to more normal levels in the 27% range for the remainder of the year. All in, we continue to expect our in club sales growth and merchandise gross margin improvements to offset normalizing gas profitability. And we maintain our view that fiscal 2023 EPS will be approximately flat year-over-year with EPS in the second quarter expected to be slightly higher than Q1.

Before turning it back to Bob, I’d like to reiterate our confidence in the strength of our business and the transformation we have made in our company. We believe we are well positioned to deliver sustainable growth longer-term.

With that, I will turn it back over to Bob for final remarks.

Bob EddyPresident, Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Laura. We’re very proud of our team for the great quarterly results in the first quarter. Our members continue to reward us for the structural improvements in our membership, our merchandising, our digital capabilities and even how we expand our footprint. These are further amplified by the advantages inherent in our warehouse club model and our differentiated approach to the channel itself. Moreover, we have an incredibly talented leadership team that together with our passionate team members across our clubs distribution centers and club support center is executing on our strategic priorities. I firmly believe that these powerful elements combined will allow us to continue to profitably grow this business. Maximize sustainable long-term shareholder value and build an even stronger future for our company. With that, I will now turn it back over to the operator to take your questions.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

Thank you. We will now start the Q&A session. In fairness to all participants, please limit your questions to one question and one follow-up. Our first question comes from the line of Kate McShane from Goldman Sachs. Your line is now open.

Kate McShaneGoldman Sachs — Analyst

Hi, good morning. Thanks for taking our question. I just wondered if you could talk a little bit about the cadence of both MFI and gross margins. I think you mentioned in the prepared comments that you expected Q1 to be the strongest with regards to MFI, so we wondered why that was the case and what you faced for the rest of the year in terms of compares and then with gross margin kind of the same question. I think, you say that it’s expected to moderate. How should we think about that for the rest of the year.

Bob EddyPresident, Chief Executive Officer

Good morning Kate. Thanks for the question. Laura what going to fill-in the gaps here, but let me take them one at a time. We had a pretty good quarter from a membership fee income perspective, we continue to grow the size and the quality of our membership with about a 6% MFI growth and about 5% of that coming from bodies. As we continue to grow the company and look for ways to innovate. We’ve been offering different types of membership offers and some of those have different accounting treatments and so. Some of you, we’re lapping some of those things this year we tried last year will drive some new stuff this year and so that informs so the pacing of MFI growth as we go through this year. We aren’t anticipating slowing down our membership growth, it really is so just how the numbers workout. And from a margin perspective, we had an outstanding quarter in the first quarter our merchants did a great job managing through the economic circumstances and lapping what happened last year and taking advantage of the tailwinds this year is the cost of distribution declined with diesel cost and ocean freight and a few other odds and ends. I would say, as we get through the rest of the year those tailwinds this lesson. And so we do expect this to be our highest quarter of the year from a gross margin perspective. Not knowing what’s coming in any of the inputs to gross margin, but certainly as we sit here today feels like Q1 should be the highest for us.

Laura FeliceChief Financial Officer

Yes, I think Kate the only thing I would add, Bob covered off MFI. Well, the only thing I would add on gross margins is Q1 was about 100 bps of growth. I would expect it will throw off meaningfully as we head into Q2. And kind of trail over the course of the year or so. The growth rate will certainly moderate quarter-by-quarter.

Kate McShaneGoldman Sachs — Analyst

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes line of Edward Kelly from Wells Fargo. Your line is now open.

Edward KellyWells Fargo — Analyst

Hi guys, good morning. I wanted to ask you about the comp guidance and the cadence of the comp guidance. Laura, I think you said back half slightly stronger than Q2. We will see I think inflation decelerated pretty meaningfully. So I’m hoping that you could give us a little bit more color around that cadence. What you’re inflation expectation isn’t that how we should be thinking about the Gen merged comp. And then as part of that, maybe you could help us with how you’re running so far in Q2.

Laura FeliceChief Financial Officer

Yes, thanks, Ed. Good morning. So for the remainder of the year, I think comp will moderate. But it will be relatively balanced. You have it right, that we think the inflation levels will do salary across the remainder of the year. I would remind you for our Investor Day, we talked about our general merchandise business we’ve talked about that for quite some time and the transformation we have underway there. So we think that piece of the business, specifically in the back-half of the year as we get towards holiday. We’ll comp better than we did in the first-quarter.

Bob EddyPresident, Chief Executive Officer

Yes, maybe maybe I I’ll talk for a minute or two. I think Q1 is a bit of a microcosm as some of the things we’ll see the rest of the year too. I — we’ve certainly seen some deflation or disinflation whatever you would like to call. Our our inflation in Q4 was double-digits, it was it was meaningfully lower than that in the first quarter and I expect that will continue. I don’t know that we’ve changed our sort of global inflation input for the year, but I do think it’s receding a little faster than we had in our model. And I think Laura is right on the right point. We had, as we noted, a bright spot in general merchandise in Q1 was apparel that is a business for us that our new merchant team has had great influence on for the back-half and. I would say moderate influence for Q1 and we saw a nice positive comp in that refreshed assortments. I’m looking at that as green shoots on what they can and will do later in the year. And I have certainly seen some of the new assortments and I’m excited to see how our members react to it. So, as we sit here in Q2, I don’t want to talk too much about it, but Q1 suffered from some deflation and suffered from certainly not breaking any new ground.

Talking about weather, as you’ve heard it from everybody else that was certainly a thing. And as we sit here in Boston today, it’s still it’s still not very warm. So, that informs our view that the general merchandise business will not be robust in the second quarter and forms that low single digit Q2 comp. But we do believe the business will come back and our consumers holding in there very nicely. So, we’ll get through the next few weeks here and talk to you at the end of Q2 and tell you more about the back half.

Edward KellyWells Fargo — Analyst

Just a quick follow up, so you have pretty sizable tax headwind in Q1 that was unanticipated. You maintained the full year, but now you sound, I think maybe you are a bit more optimistic around that. Is that really just around the operational aspects of Q2 coming in above plan.

Bob EddyPresident, Chief Executive Officer

No, I mean it doesn’t really have much to do with Q2 and I think we’re optimistic on the business overall in the long-term. There is certainly some macro headwinds out there for the full year as we’ve talked about with inflation and the consumer health and the economy and that ceiling and everything, everybody is worried about. Q2 has some odd things to lap, right, we’re going to lap the highest gas prices of the year In the next couple of weeks and gas is an important part of our offering and our value to our membership and I’m sure $5 gas drove some trips that will lap. And as we sit here, you’re looking at the trends in Q1 were pretty good. We thought it was a great operational quarter despite the tax item that you pointed out and well — we’re bullish for the long-term of this business and we’ll kind of work on the year one quarter at a time.

Edward KellyWells Fargo — Analyst

Thank you.

Operator

Thank. Our next question comes from Chuck Grom from Gordon Haskett. Your line is now open.

Chuck GromGordon Haskett — Analyst

Thanks, good morning. Just a question on the second-quarter guidance, Bob. I think you’re seeing a little bit higher than the first quarter of $0.85, is that on absolute basis or is that on a year-over-year basis. And then as a follow-up to that, can you help us think about the margin component and the building blocks to get to that number in the second quarter.

Bob EddyPresident, Chief Executive Officer

Yes, sure. Good morning. Why don’t I let Laura handle that since, since its guidance related.

Laura FeliceChief Financial Officer

Yes, good morning. So the slightly better than Q1 is on an absolute basis. Chuck and from a margin perspective, I talked a little bit about already we think the inflation levels will moderate as we head into the quarter and travel through the quarter, month by month. I think we we talked about there were a lot of underlying things that we lapped in Q1, diesel cost, mark downs, high inventory levels from last year. So we expect, and as we think about those heading into Q2 that we, those won’t be as meaningful from a base perspective. As we look at our inventory levels and where we sit today. I would tell you as we head into Q2 we feel comfortable with where we are specifically from a gen merch perspective, but we will continue to watch it very closely through the quarter.

Chuck GromGordon Haskett — Analyst

Okay, and just as a follow-up on. I think, I’m not sure if we touched on this, but can you talk about the cadence of the comp in the quarter and I guess May month-to date are, are you guys running in that low-single digit range over the past few weeks.

Bob EddyPresident, Chief Executive Officer

Certainly, again I’m not going to break any new ground here either. February is the strongest month for us and the other two months were lower. And. I don’t want to get too much into Q2 because we started just into it now, but certainly I think you can read into that the lower single digit is certainly lower than where we were in Q1. But again, we’re, we’re very bullish on the long-term, we feel like there is some Q2 dynamics we need to get through and then the back half should be better.

Chuck GromGordon Haskett — Analyst

Makes senses. Thanks.

Bob EddyPresident, Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Chuck. Thank you. Our next question comes from Simeon Gutman from Morgan Stanley. Please go ahead.

Simeon GutmanMorgan Stanley — Analyst

Follow-up, and this one, this one part and then I’ll yield. The first question is can you — did you have any markets in which weather wasn’t problematic. Can you talk about the general merchandise trends there. And then the second part is gallon growth, the fact that you’re taking market share. Are you approaching cents per gallon any different in terms of managing your competitive spread versus other gasoline operators. Thank you.

Bob EddyPresident, Chief Executive Officer

Hey, Sime, good morning. Yes there wasn’t a tremendous difference in the overall geography of general merchandise sales. But if you do look at sort of weather sensitive categories like patio sets, might be a good example. The Southeast did perform better than the Northeast. So there certainly is a weather component embedded in there. However, I would tell you the the biggest thing that we’re seeing is members being much more reticent about almost anything big-ticket. So if you look at patio sets, the structure, if you look at televisions and so high-dollar electronics. It’s a very picky consumer out there at that point –at this point from a high ticket perspective. So we got weather plus the economy plays into it. The gas business has been a tremendous source of profitability for us over the past couple of years for sure. But, frankly, as we talked about it on Investor Day, we don’t run that business for-profit we run it for for price image and for lifetime value and. It has certainly been something our team has done a great job at.

Not only figuring out how to be a little bit more structurally profitable in that business, but to show fantastic value every day, provide great service to our members, which is driving those market share gains you referenced. We haven’t talked at all about the co-brand card so far in the Q&A session, but certainly the gas business is a huge piece of that for us as well, right. It’s, it is one of the bigger pieces of the benefits that you get from being a cardholder with as much as a $0.15 difference. And effectively we get a member’s entire gas business when they become a card holder. So we’ll continue to price our gasoline more sharply and try and continue to gain those strips in that market share and we’ll also try and build-on, build on the discounts that we give through our co-brand. program and then our higher-tier program altogether as you know we, we added a 5% discount for our rewards members as well. So, really been a great business for us in the long-term and certainly it’s something that’s resonating well with our members.

Simeon GutmanMorgan Stanley — Analyst

Thanks. Good luck.

Bob EddyPresident, Chief Executive Officer

Thanks Simeon.

Operator

Our next question comes from Robbie Ohmes from Bank of America.

Robby OhmesBank of America — Analyst

Hi, can you hear me okay.

Laura FeliceChief Financial Officer

Yes, we got.

Robby OhmesBank of America — Analyst

Good morning Laurie. Okay, terrific. I’m good, thanks. Yes, two quick questions. I think, Bob, can you just talk about the competitive environment and I’d be curious about the Sam’s Club membership discounting, maybe remind us. What the overlap is and what kind of impact you expect from their membership discounting and if there are our other upticks in promotions in grocery competitively or anything like that going on that then you can highlight for us.

Bob EddyPresident, Chief Executive Officer

Sure, it’s a great it’s a good question and certainly the competitive environment this is fierce, it always has been. We have the joy of competing against the best retailers in the world and so where do we see what they do we trying to emulate the great stuff that they do and certainly our warehouse club competitors have some good stuff to emulate, Sams has been more and more aggressive from a membership perspective and the results are to be admired and certainly, we’ve tried to take some lessons from what they’re doing and tried to think up our own great ideas as well and have our own great results to point out. I think what you’ll continue to see is everybody trying to innovate to get their businesses to be better. That’s what our jobs are and that’s what we’re trying to do here at BJ’s. Is find the right offer to attract the right member and then the right engagement strategies to retain those members and I would argue, our last few years of performance, let’s say, we’re doing a pretty good job of that. In Q1, certainly getting away from membership and getting into sales, Q1 I would tell you it was a little bit more promotional and I would expect Q2 to be as well then in the past few quarters and I think that’s just to be expected when everybody’s calling for sales and market share. Whether it’s in the general merchandise business for sure, is more promotional. But certainly, everybody is trying to show value to their consumers. We try and do that every day is a core function of what we do and I would argue, we’re a little bit more promotional in our competitors are to.

Robby OhmesBank of America — Analyst

That’s helpful and just a quick follow-up at the beginning of the call I think you guys mentioned that you’re gaining with I think all cohorts, but is there anything you can highlight or call out on is there are you seeing more strength with your better income or are you seeing the low income line for more any kind of color you can give.

Bob EddyPresident, Chief Executive Officer

Look, we’ve grown trips per member and sales for with each of our cohorts that we track and disclosed to you also. I think Q1 was a very good quarter from that perspective, it’s clear that there is pressure out there. And as you would expect those folks in the lower economic strata are feeling more pressure than those at the high end. With that said, we offer them tremendous value and so their business has hung in there nicely with us. So, again there trips sales grew. As the folks at the higher end and I think that’s just the psyche of the consumer at the higher end. Right. Everybody wants to save money, everybody feels like it’s it’s a bumpy economy out there and we’re a great place to find value in all of your everyday needs and essentials as well as some great general merchandise as well so. I would expect as we get through the rest of the year, you’ll see that same type of thing where. As the economy gets tougher we become a greater place to go.

Robby OhmesBank of America — Analyst

That’s helpful, thanks.

Bob EddyPresident, Chief Executive Officer

Thanks Robby.

Operator

Our next question is from Peter Benedict from Baird. Please go ahead.

Peter BenedictBaird — Analyst

Good morning, guys. Just wanted to follow-up on that, just pricing particularly around the grocery side talked about inflation moderating maybe faster you thought, sounds like the full-year still how you see it or how you were seeing it. Just curious, like what you’re seeing from competitors in terms of pricing on grocery. Are you getting to a point where you’re seeing any deflation. And if you do get to that point, just curious what the playbook is. Bob kind of how you think about managing the business in the event that we’re in a deflationary environment, not just this inflation.

Bob EddyPresident, Chief Executive Officer

Yes. Good morning, Pete. Thanks for the question. It’s a really good and we certainly seen disinflation across the business. And in certain commodities we’ve seen deflation of eggs and chicken and some there is stuff come to mind. And I think our playbook honestly is to always offer the right value to our members. That is what is paramount. That’s why they buy memberships. That’s why they come to see us and so has pricing gets more and more important will continue to play offense on that and we told you in March, we made huge investments last year to improve our pricing those investments have continued here in the first quarter and you know that I don’t think that will stop, right. We want to make sure we are price right every day, the commodities that matter most to our members. Certainly, that might put some pressure on margin obviously investments cost money. The good thing I would tell you is, we have that CPI muscle that you know about from years ago that we’ve sort of embedded into our merchandising culture where we know how to buy much better today than we did seven or eight years ago and we have a process by, which we can you can do that, so I think it will continue to be a think we spend a lot of time on meeting pricing and value. But our team is pretty good at managing margins too.

Peter BenedictBaird — Analyst

Yes, that’s helpful. Then I just follow up on the second half view with general merchandise or opportunities around general merchandise you mentioned apparel, kind of an early through point here. I think Toys was called out at the Investor Day, just remind us the other categories that you see particular opportunity in, to kind of improve that general merchandise support the general merchandise business later this year.

Bob EddyPresident, Chief Executive Officer

Yes, look. I mean you know the story, we’re trying to really reinvent the general merchandising business over time and the team is so there have been in place for about a year at this point in which, now you’re starting to see the fruits of their labor and apparel and some other stuff here over the summer and more even more into the back half. A lot of these categories are very long-lead times to buy, so you’re buying next to your patio sets. I don’t know about a month ago, actually probably. And so the team has done great job in picking and choosing the things that they need to work on first, that’s why we talked to you about toys and certainly you know, a category that we have underperformed in four years and I would tell you it’s assortment related. Right. We had a very transactional focus with our suppliers. We didn’t have a great relationship with many of our suppliers in that category. We had zero relationship with some of the most key players in that assortment. So, first and foremost, the team has been building relationships and understanding what we need to put on the shelves and making sure that we can get access to those things. We have great businesses that we’ve been successful in for a long-time, like televisions electronics that we have good relationships with, we have the right assortment and they’re off trying to figure out what we might do from an assortment and promotion standpoint pricing standpoint in the back half to really make those businesses stronger too. So I like what they’ve done so far it hasn’t yet seen the members haven’t seen it yet. So I kind of reserve judgment. I’m very optimistic on what they can do over the long-term. I say that recognizing that we still face a choppy economy for the rest of the year too. So I can imagine in spite of anything brilliant that they might do from a television business perspective, I’m not sure that business is going to be great given the large ticket that comes along with it, but I am optimistic for toys and in apparel and some of the other key businesses that they’ve already kind of put their stamp on so. We’ll see how it goes in the next few weeks and months and quarters, and we’ll continue to iterate and get better.

Peter BenedictBaird — Analyst

Sounds good. Thanks so much.

Mike BakerD.A Davidson — Analyst

The next question is from Mike Baker from DA Davidson. Your line is open. Apologies, we’ve lost mike. Just reconnecting him. Hello.

Operator

Hi, Mike. I apologize. Your line are open now.

Mike BakerD.A Davidson — Analyst

Okay. I don’t know what happened there, but anyway. I wanted to bring Bill Werner into the conversation and ask about a couple of quarters ago, you guys talked about your BJ’s market concept with the customers so focused on need versus wants. You know that becomes maybe more interesting, can you just update us on that concept, what you’ve seen in that initial test and how we should think about that maybe going forward.

Bill WernerExecutive Vice President, Strategy and Development

Hey Mike, good morning. Yeah, we’ve made great progress BJ’s market we talked about it as a pilot as a way to see just another innovative approach of how to bring the club closer to the members and we’ve seen good results so-far. And I think as we talked about at the Analyst Day. We’re continuing to look at ways of how to expand on what we’re learning that club. So as we think about the overall portfolio of how we get more convenient, right, it’s the broad picture of different formats complete continuing to lean into our omni capabilities that had such great growth during the quarter through both they and same day delivery. And then also the new club, growth in total. So the new clubs that we opened up in the first quarter In Davenport and McDonough are off to a great start. The membership there is substantially higher than our initial projections. So we’re really, really happy that we’ve seen in the continued momentum. In the early clubs of this year that we’ve seen over the past couple of years. So as we think about the new club, vertical in general and how we expand the footprint. We remain really bullish and we’re all eyes are focused on our first club in the State of Tennessee and La Vergne which is just as Nashville here in the second quarter.

Mike BakerD.A Davidson — Analyst

Got it, all right. So, since I asked one longer-term question. Let me ask a short-term question if I could, it wasn’t mentioned on the call, but do you think lower tax refunds impacted you guys at all with all your data, anyway to tell which of your customers may have been impacted by that and how much of headwind that may or may not have been in the first quarter. Thanks.

Bill WernerExecutive Vice President, Strategy and Development

Hey Mike, Look, we don’t have tremendous data on this, we’ve never had a great model to measure and it does feel like there was an impact, particularly in those big ticket businesses. Where you might use a tax refund cheque to buy a patio set or a mattress or something. But I’d be lying if I told you, we had a wonderful model or predict.

Mike BakerD.A Davidson — Analyst

Okay. Fair enough. I appreciate the candor.

Bill WernerExecutive Vice President, Strategy and Development

We’ve got.

Operator

Our next question comes from Mark Carden from UBS. Please go ahead.

Mark CardenUBS — Analyst

Good morning, thanks so much for taking my questions. So a number of your mass merchant and general merchandise competitors have been calling out increasing pressures from shrink, have you seen much on that pick on this front or does your model just insulate you a bit better from some of these at once.

Bob EddyPresident, Chief Executive Officer

Hey Mark, it’s a great question. I do think you’re –let me start by saying or organized retail crime is definitely a thing and we see it in our business as I talk to my counterparts across the retail industry, they are definitely seeing it in their businesses. Your point on our format is a relevant one and we, although we see it, it is material. We benefit from the fact that our –we have a membership business need a card to get-in our stuff is largely in bigger pack sizes, so it’s harder to pilfer and our team has done really wonderful work so keeping track. All our inventory keeping our shrink as low as possible and most importantly, keeping our members and our team members safe every day. I think you’ll continue to hear it across the industry. And one of the reasons, one of the other reasons why ours might be lower than some is although shrink as a problem and many, if not most markets. It is a much more pointed problem in certain places, particularly on the West Coast are places like Chicago, Albuquerque that have Blue state our local blue governments that don’t really feel like prosecuting crime. My view as the government first obligation is to provide a safe environment for people to do their daily business and in some places that’s not happening but politics aside. I think you’ll continue to see this be a problem that the retail industry as a whole needs to work on. We spend a ton of time with our partners in the industry trying to mitigate our own losses and help our competitors mitigate their losses and it’s an unfortunate part of the society that we live in today. But long-story short, it’s less material problem for us than it might be for some of our competitors.

Mark CardenUBS — Analyst

Makes sense. And then, you’re seeing some pretty strong momentum in your new markets, what are you seeing on the membership acquisition front in your legacy markets. And has there been any shifts in trajectory there.

Bob EddyPresident, Chief Executive Officer

But really we’ve had. We’ve had great membership results for a while now in both new and existing markets. Our team has and then pretty successful in acquiring new members regardless of new or existing markets. We’ve made a tremendous shift towards digital acquisition over the years, that’s been very successful, as we’ve talked about we’ve iterated on the different types of offers that we use out in the market. And we’re pretty pleased with the team and the results that they’ve been able to provide a lot of it is us running a better business, a lot of it is putting better things in front of our members, having great offerings like our co-brand credit card that. We transition to Capital One this quarter, it’s all about value. It’s all about service and convenience and we’re doing a much better job on each one of those to show to our members and prospective members that were a place to go.

Mark CardenUBS — Analyst

Thanks so much and good luck.

Bob EddyPresident, Chief Executive Officer

Great. Thanks, Mark. I think that was our last question. I would wanted to thank everybody for your attention and for your support of our company and we will get in touch with the over the summer and tell you how we did in Q2. Thank you very much.

Operator

[ Operator Closing Remarks].

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