Wal-Mart Stores (WMT): Four Ways Its Grip On Retail Dominance May Be Slipping

  @natrudy on August 15 2013 10:32 AM
  • Walmart shopper
    A shopper pushes a cart down an aisle in a Walmart store. Reuters
  • Wal-Mart
    Walmart Reuters
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After Thursday's disappointing earnings from retail giant Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT), here are four important ways in which the world’s biggest retailer may be slipping from its longtime dominance.

1. Wal-Mart Shares Have Trailed Wider Markets

Wal-Mart shares are up only 12 percent for the year to date, compared to the 17 percent gain clocked by the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The S&P 500 is up 18 percent for the year to date, too.

The company seems to have missed out on a budding U.S. economic recovery, where a strong housing rebound and reasonable unemployment figures could lead to the gradual reduction of monetary stimulus over the fall.

2. Same-Store Sales In The United States Are Down 0.3 Percent For The Quarter

In its earnings release on Thursday, the company announced a slip in sales in its core home market, even though net international sales rose 2.9 percent from last year.  

Fewer customers walked into Wal-Mart stores in the United States, and the company also expects sales for the coming quarter to stay “relatively flat,” down from a slight growth in last year’s quarter of 1.5 percent.

Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke acknowledged that both global net sales and U.S. sales were “below expectations.” Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had expected a 1 percent boost in sales, not a 0.3 percent decline.

The company also lowered its forecast for annual net sales growth to between 2 percent and 3 percent from a range of 5 percent or 6 percent. 

3. Earnings Missed Expectations For The Quarter, With Guidance Lowered For The Full Year

Wal-Mart’s earnings per share hit $1.24 for the quarter, a 5.1 percent boost from last year’s figure, but still missed analysts’ expectations by a penny.

The company also lowered its guidance for full year EPS to $5.10 to $5.30  from its previous, more optimistic forecast of $5.20 to $5.40. Third quarter earnings are projected to be even lower than this quarter’s.

The company accounted for the $0.01 impact on EPS by pointing to a “tax matter” impact on operating expenses for its international division, which it said wasn’t an income tax matter. Details on the tax item weren’t available in the company’s news release.

The updated projections for full year earnings took into account “the challenging sales and operating environment,” according to Chief Financial Officer Charles Holley.

The company also expects legal expenses, incurred partly over issues concerning the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which combats corruption in foreign countries by U.S. companies, to reach $75 million in the second half of the year.

4. A Challenging International Scene

International net sales rose 2.9 percent for the quarter, but even Wal-Mart International CEO Doug McMillon acknowledged the “challenging sales environment” globally.

“Across our International markets, growth in consumer spending is under pressure,” he said in a statement. “Consumers in both mature and emerging markets curbed their spending during the second quarter.”

The international division’s operating income also fell by 1.3 percent, even as the U.S. arm boosted operating income by 5.2 percent.

The company's India expansion - a crucial move as the retailer pushes into emerging markets – also stalled last month as the company appeared to delay its application for its first retail store license before March 2015, Reuters reported. 

In June, Wal-Mart also lost Raj Jain, who led its India push for the past six years and continued investigating bribery allegations at the division.

The New York Times published an in-depth report on alleged bribery in Wal-Mart’s Mexican arm in April 2012, which led to heightened compliance efforts and an internal review. 

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