First quarter sales were $1.26 billion, an increase of 8% over the prior year. Same-store sales grew 7% in the quarter, with hardgoods up 9% and gas and rent up 5%. Acquisitions, net of a divestiture, contributed sales growth of 1% in the quarter. Sequentially, sales increased 1% from the fourth quarter.
“Our earnings were strong, notwithstanding the significant incremental challenges we faced in our helium supply chain during the quarter,” said Airgas Chief Executive Officer Peter McCausland. “The slow and steady growth we had been seeing across our customer base through May moderated in June. We are paying close attention to our business trends and tightening controls on our operating expenses. Though we are appropriately cautious about near-term conditions, we remain optimistic about the long-term prospects for the U.S. manufacturing and energy industries and our ability to leverage our unique value proposition and unrivaled platform to drive growth in these and other key customer segments.”
“While SAP implementation costs were higher than anticipated this quarter and are expected to be so for the remainder of the year, the number one priority in an undertaking of this magnitude is getting it right,” said Airgas Chief Operating Officer Michael L. Molinini. “In the past five months, we have successfully converted four regional companies and trained more than 2,000 users, which is a significant accomplishment for which our associates are to be commended. The implementation is on-schedule, with nearly 70 percent of the distribution business running on SAP, and we remain confident that we will realize the economic benefits as planned and that this investment will further enhance the value of our full-service offering to customers.”