Walmart Holiday Quarter Sales Top Estimates
Walmart, Inc. reported an estimate-beating jump in holiday quarter comparable sales on Tuesday, as a strong economy boosted consumer spending and fuelled e-commerce purchases.
The performance offered a glimpse into the health of the US consumer, as spending was helped by a strong labour market and cheaper gasoline prices.
"We still feel pretty good about the consumer. We haven't seen much of a change," Walmart chief financial officer Brett Biggs told Reuters.
"The data we are seeing still looks pretty healthy. Gas prices are down year over year, which helps," added Biggs.
US retail sales recorded their biggest drop in more than nine years in December, the government reported last week, as receipts fell across the board, suggesting a sharp slowdown in economic activity at the end of 2018.
Overall sales for the 2018 US holiday shopping season hit a six-year high, as shoppers were encouraged by early discounts, according to a Mastercard report in late December.
Walmart sales at US stores open at least a year rose by 4.2%, excluding fuel, in the fourth quarter ended 31 January.
The gain exceeded analysts' expectations of 2.96%, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
Sales were also boosted after federal officials distributed food-stamp aid early, due to the partial government shutdown, the company reported.
Adjusted earnings per share increased to $1.41 (€1.24) per share, beating expectations of $1.33 (€1.17) per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
Online sales jumped by 43% during the quarter, in line with the previous quarter's rise, helped by the expansion of Walmart's online grocery pickup and delivery services, and a broader assortment on its website.
The US retailer, which overtook Apple, Inc. to become the third-largest e-commerce retailer last year, is likely to capture a 4.6% share of the US e-commerce market, behind eBay, Inc. and Amazon, according to research firm eMarketer.
Walmart repeated its forecast that fiscal year 2020 earnings per share would decline in the low single digits in percentage terms, compared with last year.
Excluding the acquisition of Indian e-commerce firm Flipkart, it sees an increase in the low to mid-single digits.
Walmart expects fiscal year 2020 comparable sales growth of 2.5% to 3%, excluding fuel, and online sales growth of 35%.
Total revenue increased by 1.9%, to $138.8 billion (€122.8 billion), beating analysts' estimates of $138.65 billion (€122.22 billion).
Walmart has recorded 18 quarters, or over four straight years of US comparable sales growth, unmatched by any other retailer.