Bentonville, AR—Hit by lower traffic in stores, winter storms and benefit reductions for its lower income shoppers, Walmart Stores Inc. today reported that its fourth quarter profit missed expectations, dropping 21%. The retail giant also forecast weaker-than-expected earnings ahead.
For the quarter ended Jan. 31, Walmart said net profit fell to $4.43 billion, or $1.36 a share, compared with $5.6 billion, or $1.67 a share, a year ago. Excluding charges related to store closings in Brazil and China, adjusted earnings were $1.60 a share edging past analysts’ estimate for $1.59.
Total revenue was up 1.4% to $128.79 billion, missing analysts’ estimate for $129.9 billion.
Walmart also reported its fourth straight decrease in its U.S. comparable store sales, which were down 0.6%. Total U.S. net sales were up 2.4%, helped by a 30% increase in online sales. Walmart revealed its online sales amounted to $10 billion last year, including acquisitions.
“While it’s small in comparison to total revenue, it’s the fastest-growing part of our business,” Chief Financial Officer Charles Holley said.
The retailer attributed bad winter weather, cuts in the government’s food stamp program and a very slowly recovering economy as making sales more difficult. CEO Doug McMillon is looking especially to improve comp sales going forward.
To Double the Number of Smaller Format Stores
“Comp sales improvement is a key priority, and we’ll focus on being even stronger item and category merchants, delivering value and improving our service levels,” McMillon said. “We’ll remain focused on our expense structure, and innovate to improve productivity and aid our ability to deliver every day low prices.”
Looking ahead, Walmart projects 2015 earnings would be in the range of $5.10 to $5.45 a share, with sales rising about 3% the lower end of its earlier forecast. Analysts’ estimate expects $5.55 a share for the year.
One of the expenditures that will weigh on the earnings is the company’s greater investment in its neighborhood stores concepts and its Walmart Express stores.
“We’ll invest aggressively in e-commerce and increase our small store rollout in the U.S., as we’ve done in several other countries, to deliver value and convenience. Today, we are announcing an increased capital allocation, above our previous forecast, to accelerate small store growth in the U.S.,” McMillon added. “The combination of supercenters and smaller formats closer to customers’ homes, along with e-commerce and mobile commerce, will enable us to increase our relevance for the Walmart brand around the world.”
Walmart now expects to add about 270 to 300 small stores during the fiscalyear, doubling the initial forecast of 120 to 150 stores. Walmart U.S. will continue its plan to open approximately 115 new supercenters this year.
“Customers’ needs and expectations are changing. They want to shop when they want and how they want, and we are transforming our business to meet their
expectations,” said Bill Simon, Walmart U.S. president/ceo. “Customers appreciate the broad assortment of our supercenters for their stock-up trips as well as our small store formats for fill-in trips. By unlocking this growth opportunity and further combining our supercenters and small store formats with an unlimited selection available through ecommerce, we provide our customers with anytime, anywhere access to our brand.”
The small store concepts have been producing positive comp sales as well as increased shopping traffic. Comp sales for Neighborhood Market stores grew about 4% in 2013, driven mostly by grocery and pharmacy.