• Cracker Barrel Retail Sales Rise, Construction Pace Increases, Stock Market Flat After Drop

    Cracker Barrel's retail sales in its latest quarter increased over 2019 while dining revenue trailed. (CoStar)
    Cracker Barrel's retail sales in its latest quarter increased over 2019 while dining revenue trailed. (CoStar)

    By Richard Lawson
    CoStar News

    Cracker Barrel Retail Sales Rise
    Cracker Barrel dining rooms didn’t deliver quite what upper management expected in its latest quarter. But the retail side of the Lebanon, Tennessee-based company’s roadside restaurants far exceeded expectations.

    The chain reported $784.4 million in revenue for the quarter that ended July 31, which is relatively flat compared to the same period in 2019, a comparison companies in general have been making given capacity restrictions during the pandemic last year.

    Same-store restaurant sales, however, were down 6.8%. Retail sales were up 18.2%, exceeding expectations once again, Sandra Cochran, Cracker Barrel’s CEO, told investors on the company’s earnings call Tuesday.

    Known more for its down-home Southern menu, customers bought toys, apparel and home décor from the company in stronger numbers during the quarter. Cochran said that “while it’s still early, our Christmas sales are off to a strong start.”

    Cochran said sluggish dining numbers were partly the result of coronavirus cases rising again, particularly in “areas where our stores are more heavily located that impacted guest visitation patterns.”
    The company’s Maple Street Biscuit Co., a chain it bought in 2019, has been exceeding sales expectations. Cracker Barrel launched a virtual chicken and biscuit brand earlier this year, a signature item at Maple Street, expanding it to 100 stores by the end of August with plans to add another 500 stores this quarter.

    Construction Pace Increases

    A rise in apartment construction drove an unexpected increase in total residential construction in August.
    The Commerce Department reported on Tuesday that starts for properties with five or more units increased 21.6% from July. That offset a 2.8% decline in single-family construction to push total starts to a 3.9% increase for August.

    July starts had decreased more than 6% from June. Forecasters had projected a down month for August.
    Starts surged the most in the Northeast. In all, starts increased 167.2%, the Commerce Department reported. Single-family starts alone rose 52.4%. Starts turned negative out West, however. The total was down 21.1% with single-family down 20.5%.

    Stock Market Flat After Drop

    Investors kept the major U.S. indices in check on Tuesday and avoided a repeat of one of the worst daily declines this year.

    News of a potential default on $300 billion of debt by China Evergrande Group, one the country’s largest property owners, spooked investors along with concerns about a slowing in Federal Reserve economic stimulus.

    The question with Evergrande is whether its troubles spread to the rest of the world. Such fears appear to have subsided with talk that the Chinese government probably will bail out the firm. During the day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rode up in the green by as much as 200 points, which would have erased about a third of the previous day’s losses. But it settled the day just below Monday’s close. The Nasdaq Composite Index finished in the green while the S&P 500 was down just a bit.

    Source: CoStar Group, www.costar.com