The pandemic continues to affect vehicle fuel consumption, with consumers purchasing fewer gallons than they did a year ago, Ankeny-based Casey’s General Stores Inc.’s quarterly earnings report shows.

During the first quarter that ended on July 31, the convenience store chain sold 549.5 million gallons of gasoline, an 11.2% decline from the same period a year ago, according to a report released late Tuesday. 

However, total gross profit in fuel sales increased 39.1% to $210 million in the first quarter, compared with $150.9 million during the same period a year ago, the report showed. 

“We continue to experience a favorable fuel margin environment,” Darren Rebelez, Casey’s president and CEO, said during an earnings call today with investors. “Results were also amplified by the utilization of our price optimization and procurement capabilities, which enabled us to post an average fuel margin of 38.2 cents per gallon.”

During the same period a year ago, the average fuel margin was 24.4 cents per gallon.
Overall, the first-quarter diluted earnings per share were $3.24, a 40.3% increase from $2.31 per share a year ago, the company reported. 

Casey’s reported total revenue of $2.1 billion in the first quarter, down from first-quarter revenue of $2.6 billion in 2019. 

The decline in revenue was attributed to a 9.8% decrease in same-store sales of prepared food and fountain drinks, according to the report.

“This category has been under the most pressure since the crisis began,” Rebelez said. About 200 of Casey’s more than 2,200 stores continue to be affected by COVID-19-related food restrictions and another 50 by beverage restrictions. 

The company opened nine new stores in the first quarter and had 20 under construction. Also during the quarter, Casey’s launched its curbside pickup service companywide. The new service had been piloted in Kansas City and Des Moines soon after the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. 

“We also believe this capability will enable us to grab market share from other pizza chains and restaurants, whose guests prefer curbside pickup options,” Rebelez said.

To read the news release on Casey’s first-quarter and annual earnings, click here.