Wal-Mart profit misses Wall Street forecasts as U.S. sales weak

BENTONVILLE, Ark., Thu May 16, 2013 — Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s quarterly profit just missed Wall Street expectations on Thursday, with sales down 1.4 percent at its Walmart U.S. stores open at least a year.

The world’s largest retailer said U.S. sales suffered from a delay in income tax refund checks, cool weather, less grocery inflation than expected, and the payroll tax increase.
Shares of Wal-Mart fell 2.3 percent in premarket trading to $78. The stock had hit a new high of $79.96 on Wednesday.
Wal-Mart earned $3.78 billion, or $1.14 per share, in the first quarter ended on April 30, up from $3.74 billion, or $1.09 per share, a year earlier.
The analysts’ average forecast was $1.15 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. In February, Wal-Mart had forecast a profit of $1.11 to $1.16 per share.
First-quarter revenue rose 1 percent to $114.19 billion.
Same-store sales at Walmart U.S. fell 1.4 percent, while the company had earlier expected such sales to be about flat. Visits to Walmart U.S. stores open at least a year fell 1.8 percent, while the average amount spent per visit rose 0.4 percent.
Wal-Mart forecast earnings of $1.22 to $1.27 per share for the current second quarter, up from $1.18 a year earlier.
The company said it expected second-quarter same-store sales, excluding those of fuel, to be flat to up 2 percent at Walmart U.S. and up 1 percent to 3 percent at its Sam’s Club warehouse store chain.

Wal-Mart may get customers to deliver packages to online buyers

SAN FRANCISCO, Thu Mar 28, 2013 — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is considering a radical plan to have store customers deliver packages to online buyers, a new twist on speedier delivery services that the company hopes will enable it to better compete with Amazon.com Inc.

Tapping customers to deliver goods would put the world’s largest retailer squarely in middle of a new phenomenon sometimes known as “crowd-sourcing,” or the “sharing economy.”

A plethora of start-ups now help people make money by renting out a spare room, a car, or even a cocktail dress, and Wal-Mart would in effect be inviting people to rent out space in their vehicle and their willingness to deliver packages to others.

Such an effort would, however, face numerous legal, regulatory and privacy obstacles, and Wal-Mart executives said it was at an early planning stage.

Wal-Mart is making a big push to ship online orders directly from stores, hoping to cut transportation costs and gain an edge over Amazon and other online retailers, which have no physical store locations. Wal-Mart does this at 25 stores currently, but plans to double that to 50 this year and could expand the program to hundreds of stores in the future.

Wal-Mart currently uses carriers like FedEx Corp. for delivery from stores — or, in the case of a same-day delivery service called Walmart To Go that is being tested in five metro areas, its own delivery trucks.

“I see a path to where this is crowd-sourced,” Joel Anderson, chief executive of Walmart.com in the United States, said in a recent interview with Reuters.

Wal-Mart’s U.S. administrative chief to step down: WSJ

BENTONVILLE, Ark., Thu Feb 28, 2013 — Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s U.S. Chief Administrative Officer Tom Mars will step down in March after more than a decade with the company, in which he also served as general counsel, the Wall Street Journal reported.

A Wal-Mart spokesman declined to provide a reason for his departure and Mars could not immediately be reached for comment, the paper said. He will leave the company on March 13, it added.

As the retailer’s general counsel from 2002 to 2009, Mars was involved in an investigation into bribery allegations regarding a Wal-Mart store built near the Mexican pyramids, according to company e-mails released earlier this year by members of Congress, the Journal said.

Separately, U.S. shopping center operator Kimco Realty Corp. said it had received a subpoena from the Securities and Exchange Commission over an investigation involving Wal-Mart Stores and possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Wal-Mart could not be immediately reached for comment by Reuters outside of regular U.S. business hours.

Wal-Mart tightens supplier policy after factory fire: WSJ

BENTONVILLE, Ark., Tue Jan 22, 2013 — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans to cut ties immediately with suppliers who subcontract work to factories without the retailer’s knowledge, changing its policy after a fire killed more than 100 garment workers in Bangladesh, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Wal-Mart is warning suppliers that it is adopting a “zero tolerance policy” for violations of its global sourcing standards and the company’s new plan would begin taking effect from March 1, the Journal said.

The tougher code replaces Wal-Mart’s prior “three strikes” approach to policing suppliers, which gave the suppliers three chances to address problems before being terminated.

“Obviously our three-strike policy wasn’t working as well as it could have,” Rajan Kamalanathan, Wal-Mart’s vice president of ethical sourcing, told the Journal in an interview. “Our message of zero tolerance is meant to get people’s attention.”

Wal-Mart could not be reached for comment by Reuters outside of regular U.S. business hours.

More than 100 workers were killed in a November 24 fire at the Tazreen garment factory in Bangladesh. Wal-Mart has said repeatedly that its Faded Glory clothing should not have been in production at the factory, a facility Bangladeshi authorities said was not safe for use.

Wal-Mart plans to hire 100,000 veterans over five years

BENTONVILLE, Ark., Tue Jan 15, 2013 — Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, said it plans to hire more than 100,000 veterans in the United States over the next five years, a move supported by first lady Michelle Obama.

Most of the veterans will be placed in the company’s stores and clubs, and some will be employed in distribution centers, Walmart U.S. Chief Executive Bill Simon said in a speech to be to delivered on Tuesday at the National Retail Federation conference.

The retailer will start issuing job offers to veterans from Memorial Day in May. The offers will be given to any honorably discharged veteran within his or her first twelve months off active duty.

“Hiring a veteran can be one of the best business decisions you make … veterans have a record of performance under pressure,” Simon said in the speech, a copy of which was provided to Reuters.

Wal-Mart said in a statement that it had spoken with the White House about the hiring commitment and Michelle Obama’s team had expressed an interest in working with the retailer.

“As our wars come to an end and our troops continue to come home, it’s more important than ever that all of us – not just government, but our businesses and non-profits as well – do our part to serve those who have served us so bravely,” Michelle Obama said in the Wal-Mart statement.

Walmart U.S. is the largest retail chain and the largest private employer in the United States, with about 1.3 million employees.

Wal-Mart moves up dividend to avoid ‘fiscal cliff’

BENTONVILLE, Ark., Mon Nov 19, 2012 – Wal-Mart Stores Inc. moved its planned dividend into late December from early January as it tries to help its investors avoid a looming jump in the tax rate on shareholder payouts that is part of the so-called fiscal cliff.

“There are complex fiscal and federal tax rate issues that may not be resolved in the next few weeks, despite the ongoing good faith negotiations between the administration and Congress to resolve details related to the fiscal cliff,” Wal-Mart said in a statement.

“In light of this uncertainty, the board determined that moving our dividend payment up by a few days to 2012 was in the best interests of our shareholders.”

The family of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton owns roughly half of the shares in the world’s largest retailer and probably would be among those forced to pay much higher taxes on dividends paid after Dec. unless Congress takes action.

Two of Sam Walton’s sons, Rob Walton and Jim Walton, are board members, and Chairman Rob Walton’s son-in-law, Gregory Penner, is also on the board. The Waltons and Penner recused themselves from the board discussion and vote on the dividend date change, Wal-Mart said.

Wal-Mart employees to pay more for health care plans

BENTONVILLE, Ark., Mon Nov 12, 2012 – Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s  U.S. employees will pay between 8 and 36 percent more in premiums for its medical coverage in 2013, prompting some of the 1.4 million workers at the nation’s largest private employer to say they will forego coverage altogether.

In mailings sent to employees for its recently completed open-enrollment period, Wal-Mart noted that its rates would increase because healthcare costs continue to rise.

For its most popular plan, which covers individuals, the payment per bi-weekly paycheck is going up by $2, or 13 percent. Other plans will see larger increases as the world’s largest retailer, known for low prices, tries to control its own costs.

Still, Wal-Mart said average costs its employees will bear should only rise about 4.4 percent in 2013, due to the elimination of some high premium plans, its move to offer free heart and spine surgery to most employees at six health care centers, and provision of other services, such as access to a healthcare advisor. That is less than the 9 percent average increase expected for all American workers next year, according to a study by human resources firm Aon Hewitt, though it isn’t clear whether the figures are comparable.

Wal-Mart’s example could be a blueprint for other employers trying to manage their costs while also preparing to meet the requirements of President Barack Obama’s U.S. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was passed in 2010, and is widely referred to as Obamacare.

Wal-Mart to open 100 more stores in China by 2015

BENTONVILLE, Ark., Fri Oct 26, 2012 – Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) plans to open 100 more stores in China and create 18,000 jobs there over the next three years, it said on Friday, in a bid to boost its presence in China’s booming but highly competitive hypermarket sector.

Wal-Mart, which has 370 stores and more than 100,000 employees in China, was a pioneer in the market, but now faces much greater competition from Britain’s Tesco Plc, Germany’s Metro AG, France’s Carrefour and domestic firms, as well as a slowing economy.

China’s hypermarket sector, in which retail sales reached 506.9 billion yuan ($81 billion) last year according to Euromonitor, includes the world’s three largest retailers in Wal-Mart, Carrefour and Tesco, and domestic brands led by Sun Art Retail Group.

Wal-Mart, Amex launch Bluebird bank account alternative

BENTONVILLE, Ark., Mon Oct 8, 2012 – Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and American Express Co. are teaming up to offer customers an alternative to debit and checking accounts, the companies said on Monday.

The product, called Bluebird, will allow for deposits by smartphone and mobile bill paying, with no minimum balance or monthly, annual or overdraft fees.

“Bluebird is our solution to help consumers who currently may be poorly served by traditional banking products,” said Dan Schulman of American Express. “In an era where it is increasingly ‘expensive to be poor,’ we have worked with Walmart to create a financial services product that rights many of the wrongs that plague the market today.”

Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, has long tried to serve its lower-income shoppers who have little or no access to credit. The retailer offers check-cashing at low rates and other services as it tries to appeal to shoppers without bank accounts.

Bluebird will be available next week online and in more than 4,000 Walmart stores in the United States, they said.

The company has said in the past that about 85 percent of transactions at its U.S. stores are paid for with cash.

Walmart to hire more than 50,000 for U.S. holiday rush

BENTONVILLE, Ark., Fri Sep 21, 2012 – Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans to hire more than 50,000 seasonal employees to work at its Walmart stores in the United States, slightly more than it did last year, as it gets ready for the winter holiday season, its busiest time of year.

The world’s largest retailer also said on Friday that it would give current workers the chance to work more hours during the season. Some Walmart workers have said that they are not given the opportunity to work as many hours as they would like.

“We know many customers are continuing to struggle as a result of the economy and high unemployment levels, but they have shown us that they’re resilient. They’re committed to giving their families a memorable Christmas,” Walmart U.S. COO Gisel Ruiz said in a statement.

Walmart did not say how many seasonal workers it hired for the 2011 holiday season, but the plan to hire more than 50,000 is up slightly from last year. The company is trying to improve the level of service at its thousands of stores, where shoppers often complain that they have to wait in long lines to pay.

Retailers typically add seasonal staff in the weeks leading up to the holiday shopping season in order to work in stores and to help in other areas, such as distribution and fulfilling online orders.

Earlier this week, department store chain Kohl’s Corp said it planned to increase its holiday season hiring by more than 10 percent. Kohl’s said on Tuesday that it plans to hire more than 52,700 people for the holiday season to work in stores and support its online business.