Walmart raises full-year earnings forecast as grocery, online growth fuel higher sales

Walmart on Thursday raised its full-year forecast, as the discounter leaned on its low-price reputation to draw grocery customers and drive online spending.

The big-box retailer beat Wall Street’s expectations for sales and profits. E-commerce sales for Walmart U.S. also jumped 24%.

Walmart said it now expects full fiscal-year consolidated net sales to increase by about 4% to 4.5%. It said adjusted earnings per share for the year will range between $6.36 and $6.46. That compares with its prior guidance for consolidated net sales gains of 3.5% and an adjusted earnings per share range of between $6.10 and $6.20.

In a CNBC interview, Chief Financial Officer John David Rainey said Walmart saw “modest improvement” in sales of big-ticket and discretionary items like electronics and home goods during the quarter. Sales of those products have been weaker for more than a year as Americans spend more on necessities like food.

He said he feels better about spending patterns than he did three months ago. Yet he described the consumer as “choiceful or discerning.” He said seasonal moments, such as the Fourth of July holiday and back-to-school, have helped drive sales.

The company’s shares were down about 1% in early trading

Here’s what the company reported for the three-month period ended July 31 compared with what analysts were expecting, according to consensus estimates from Refinitiv:

  • Earnings per share: $1.84 adjusted vs. $1.71 expected
  • Revenue: $161.63 billion vs. $160.27 billion expected

Walmart’s net income for the fiscal second-quarter jumped by 53% to $7.89 billion, or $2.92 per share, compared with $5.15 billion, or $1.88 per share a year earlier. 

Customers visited Walmart’s stores and website more often and bought more when they did. Transactions increased by 2.9% and the average ticket rose by 3.4% for Walmart U.S.

Same-store sales for Walmart U.S. grew by 6.4% in the second quarter, excluding fuel, compared with the year-ago period. That’s higher than the 4.1% increase that analysts expected, according to FactSet.

At Sam’s Club, same-store sales rose 5.5%, excluding fuel, in line with analysts’ expectations.

Walmart’s online sales in the U.S. grew, as customers bought more items from the company’s growing third-party marketplace and placed more orders for store pickup and delivery.

“It really shows that the value proposition for Walmart is much, more than just low prices or value. It’s convenience today,” Rainey said. “And so we’re leaning heavily into that and really both aspects of this part of our business.”

Walmart has gained momentum with new revenue streams, too, including selling more advertisements and convincing more shoppers to sign up for its membership program, Walmart+. Those higher margin businesses are a major reason why CEO Doug McMillon has said he expects profits to grow faster than sales over the next five years.

That upward trajectory continued in the most recent quarter. Sales for Walmart Connect, the company’s advertising business in the U.S., grew 36% year over year.

Also this week, Walmart announced changes to its leadership ranks. On Wednesday, it said Walmart International CEO Judith McKenna, a 27-year veteran, will retire in mid-September. Sam’s Club CEO Kath McLay will step into her role. Chris Nicholas, the current chief operating officer of Walmart U.S., will become the new CEO of Sam’s Club.

Winning over frugal customers

Cooling inflation, more optimism

Walmart has seen inflation ease while other other challenges persist.

In the year-ago period, Walmart and other retailers were trying to clear excess unsold merchandise. That led to both higher inventory levels and steeper discounts.

As of the end of the second quarter, inventory was down 5% compared with a year ago, Rainey said on the earnings call. Walmart has also had fewer markdowns, he said.

Food prices remain steady, but general merchandise prices have dropped compared with last year, Rainey said. Some staple grocery items, however, have fallen.

Shoppers are buying more fresh meats, seafood and eggs as they’ve become more affordable, Rainey said.

Back-to-school, one of the biggest seasons for retailers, has gotten off to an early and strong start, CEO Doug McMillon said. Those sales trends typically signal patterns for the months ahead, so they bode well for Halloween, the holidays and general merchandise sales in the second half of the year, he said.

Even so, Rainey said the company is planning conservatively and watching the amount of general merchandise that it orders. He said consumers face newer pressures, such as the return of student loan payments that had been paused for more than three years because of the Covid pandemic.

“While inflation is moderated and employment levels have been steady, credit markets have tightened,” he said. “Energy prices are higher and some customers face additional expense from the resumption of student loan payments in October. As such, we continue to be appropriately measured in our outlook.”

Correction: Walmart’s net income for the fiscal second-quarter jumped by 53% from a year earlier. An earlier version misstated the percentage. The company’s prior guidance was for an adjusted earnings per share range of between $6.10 and $6.20. An earlier version mischaracterized the guidance.

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