Walmart sees smaller profit drop as discounts draw shoppers, but clothing struggles

Walmart sees smaller profit drop as discounts draw shoppers, but clothing struggles



Walmart nudged up its annual profit forecast on August 16, partly reversing a hefty cut less than a month ago, as discounts to clear excess merchandise and lower fuel prices helped it beat expectations for quarterly sales.


The stock, which has fallen over 8% this year, rose 3.7% in pre-market trading. Shares of rivals TargetCostco

Last month, the top US retailer spooked markets across the globe when it forecast a drop of 11&-13% — down from previous guidance for a 1% fall — and warned consumers were pulling back on discretionary purchases at a far greater pace than feared as soaring inflation hit their spending power.

That forced Walmart to make steep price cuts on items such as apparel to try to reduce more than $61 billion worth of inventory it was sitting on at the end of the first quarter.

A host of other retailers including Target Corp and Best Buy Co have also issued profit warnings in recent weeks as they struggle with excess merchandise.

Walmart reported inventories of $59.92 billion at the end of the second quarter to July 31, still 25% above last year’s levels.

“I think it’s going to take another quarter, maybe get into the fourth quarter a little bit, to get back to where we want to be from an overall inventory perspective,” CFO John David Rainey said.

Rainey, who joined Walmart in May, added consumers were continuing their purchasing patterns of buying more low-margin food and consumables over general merchandise, despite an easing in gas food prices. They are trading down and allocating more spending to private-label products, he said.

Home, electronics and apparel are still “problematic” categories, he added.

Back-to-school shopping gave Walmart’s sale a boost at the end of July, but many parents opted for school supplies instead of clothing. Rainey said he expected back-to-school apparel shopping to pick up in the coming weeks.


Since the last round of quarterly results, the prices consumers pay for goods and services have shown signs of easing. The consumer price index rose 8.5% in July, less than in the previous month, due largely to a 17% drop in gasoline prices.

This helped to drive a 6.5% rise in sales at Walmart’s US stores that have been open for at least a year, beating its prior forecast for a 6% gain.


However, discounts on discretionary products, slowing demand for high-margin items such as appliances, electronics and clothes, and rising labor costs led to a 6.8% fall in the company’s quarterly operating income to $6.85 billion.

The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer now expects consolidated net sales growth of about 5% and adjusted earnings to decline 9.0% to 11.0% in the third quarter. Same-store sales for Walmart U.S., excluding fuel, are expected to rise 3%, the company said. It also maintained its forecast for 3% same-store sales growth for the rest of the year.

“Walmart maintained its outlook for the second-half of the year — an indication that, even with lower gas prices, consumers are still looking at buying less and cheaper on their weekly shopping trips, Jefferies analyst Stephanie Wissink said.

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