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 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.

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.

Walmart tests iPhone app checkout feature

BENTONVILLE, Ark., Thu Sep 6, 2012 – Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is testing a system that would allow shoppers to scan items using their iPhones and then pay at a self-checkout counter, a move that could trim checkout times and slash costs for retailers.

If the “Scan & Go” test by the world’s largest retailer is successful, it has the potential to change the way people shop and pay, making the process more personal and potentially faster.

Earlier this week, Walmart invited employees with Apple Inc. iPhones to participate in a test at a Walmart supercenter in Rogers, Ark., near the company’s headquarters, according to a form on the Survey Monkey website.

“All of the effort is to speed your way through the checkout so that we can reduce costs and improve the shopping experience,” said Paul Weitzel, managing partner at retail consulting firm Willard Bishop, who said he had not seen Wal-Mart’s test. “With smartphones and improved technology we’re only going to see more of this.”

The test comes months after Wal-Mart said that it would add more self-checkout lanes at its Walmart and Sam’s Club stores as it continues to look for ways to lower costs and prices for its shoppers.

Pushing more shoppers to scan their own items and make payments without the help of a cashier could save Wal-Mart millions of dollars, CFO Charles Holley said on March 7. Wal-Mart says it can save $12 million a year for every second it can cut from the average checkout time at the Walmart chain in the United States.

Walmart gives cardholders gas discount through Dec. 24

BENTONVILLE, Ark., Wed Aug 29, 2012 – Walmart will soon cut gasoline prices by up to 15 cents per gallon for drivers in 20 U.S. states who pay with its cards in a bid to appeal to loyal shoppers hit by big price increases at the pump.

Patrons paying with a Walmart MoneyCard or Walmart credit card will save 15 cents per gallon from Aug. 31 through Dec. 24, while others who use a Walmart gift card will get 10 cents off, `Wal-Mart Stores Inc said on Wednesday.

The promotion comes as Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, tries to attract shoppers heading into the holiday season. Last week, Walmart said it would bring back layaway a month early, giving U.S. shoppers under economic pressure more time to pay for holiday gifts.

The latest “gas rollback,” at more than 1,000 gas stations, follows a similar 2011 program that ran for a longer period of time.

Last year’s promotion ran from June 29 through Christmas Eve.

Gasoline prices are not at record highs but have been rising in recent months and jumped this week as Hurricane Isaac threatened to batter the U.S. oil refining belt. Any significant damage to refineries or extended outages could push gas prices higher.

After Hurricane Katrina, a Category 3 storm, battered the Gulf coast in 2005, U.S. gas prices jumped more than 45 cents in a single week.

The average price for regular gasoline was $3.80 on Wednesday morning, up from nearly $3.49 a month ago and $3.61 a year earlier, according to AAA data. In July 2008, the average price hit an all-time high of $4.11.

Walmart is not alone in trying to woo shoppers with lower-priced gasoline.

Grocery chain Kroger Co. often offers gasoline discounts to loyal patrons. Warehouse clubs Costco Wholesale Corp, Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club and BJ’s Wholesale Club monitor prices at nearby stations and try to match or undercut them to lure drivers.

Walmart’s 2011 “gas rollback” plan offered 10 cents off per gallon for patrons using a Walmart gift, money or credit card at participating gas stations. The offer was originally set to run through September, then extended through Dec. 24.

Wal-Mart international growth slows, shares fall

BENTONVILLE, Ark., Fri Aug 17, 2012 – Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s full-year profit may miss analysts’ expectations as growth slows in its international markets, pressuring the company even as its U.S. discount stores continue to prosper.

The world’s largest retailer, viewed as a barometer of economic activity, said on Thursday its cash-strapped customers tend to spend more at the beginning of the month when they get their paychecks. That “paycheck cycle” has extended its reach to the company’s markets beyond the United States.

“It became more pronounced across the globe,” CFO Charles Holley told reporters, without naming any specific markets where he sees the shift.

Wal-Mart’s higher second-quarter profit narrowly beat the average estimate of analysts polled by Reuters. While the company raised its earnings outlook for the full year, that could still miss analysts’ expectations.

Wal-Mart shares were down 3.4 percent at $71.91, erasing recent gains, and were the worst performer in the Dow Jones industrial average in afternoon trading.

In the United States, Wal-Mart’s largest market, shoppers’ top concerns are employment, gas prices and higher food costs, Holley said.

Other retailers, too, added to concerns about the plight of lower-income U.S. consumers.

Dollar Tree Inc. forecast quarterly earnings below Wall Street estimates on Thursday. And Sears Holdings Corp. said U.S. same-store sales fell 4.7 percent at the Kmart discount chain.

Still, Wal-Mart plans to open more stores and expects growth across its regions, but, as it has said earlier this year, will slow down store openings in Brazil, China and Mexico.

In Brazil and China, where it has hundreds of stores, it wants to “let them catch their breath” and work on moving to everyday low pricing and improving profitability, Holley said.

At the same time, the store approval process in Mexico has slowed and become more complex in the wake of allegations the company had bribed government officials to speed up approvals.

PMG International ex-chairman joins Wal-Mart board

BENTONVILLE, Ark., Mon Jul 30, 2012 – Wal-Mart Stores Inc. on Monday said that the retired chairman of accounting and consulting firm KPMG International KPMG.UL has joined its board of directors, effective immediately.
Timothy Flynn, 55, will serve as a member of the retailer’s audit committee and becomes the seventeenth member of Wal-Mart’s board.
Flynn joined the board of JPMorgan Chase & Co. earlier this year.
Wal-Mart has been embroiled in a bribery scandal at its Mexican operations, which are the subject of investigations by the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
In April, a New York Times report said that management at Wal-Mart de Mexicob orchestrated bribes of $24 million to help it grow quickly in the last decade and that Wal-Mart’s top brass tried to cover it up.

Wal-Mart bribery review includes Brazil, China

WASHINGTON, Tue Jun 12, 2012 – Lawyers for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. have flagged Brazil, China, India and South Africa in addition to Mexico, as countries that represent the highest corruption risk in a global review, according to a letter from lawmakers investigating the company.

The lawyers said they were retained to review Wal-Mart policies in Mexico, Brazil and China, and later recommended the company also evaluate its operations in India and South Africa. The lawyers referred to those five countries as regions where the risk was the greatest, according to the lawmakers.

The company has acknowledged it is investigating bribery allegations involving its Mexican operations, and that it is conducting a global review of its anti-corruption compliance program, but has not provided details about the review.

The new details came in a letter from two Democratic lawmakers, Representatives Elijah Cummings and Henry Waxman, who are the ranking members, respectively, of the House Oversight and House Energy committees.

The pair wrote to Wal-Mart Chief Executive Michael Duke on Tuesday and asked him to provide additional documents and allow certain witnesses to cooperate with a congressional investigation into the bribery allegations.

Outside lawyers for Wal-Mart briefed the lawmakers on May 21 about the company’s program to comply with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a 1970s-era law that bars bribes to officials of foreign governments.

But the lawyers did not answer any questions about the substance of the bribery allegations, which were brought to light in an April 21 New York Times report that said that management at Wal-Mart de Mexico orchestrated bribes of $24 million to help it grow quickly in the last decade and that Wal-Mart’s top brass tried to cover it up.

The two lawmakers have previously expressed frustration about the information they have received from Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart representatives did not immediately respond to a request for a comment, but the company has said it is “committed to a full and independent investigation,” and that “it would be inappropriate for us or others to come to conclusions before the investigation is complete.”

‘No’ votes jump against Wal-Mart’s Duke, directors

BENTONVILLE, Ark., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. CEO Michael Duke, Chairman Rob Walton and former CEO Lee Scott received a far higher percentage of votes against re-election to the board of directors this year than last in the wake of Mexican bribery allegations.

The officials were targeted by large pension funds and activist groups after allegations its Wal-Mart de Mexico unit bribed officials to expand quickly last decade and that management squelched an internal investigation.

Scott, who was CEO of the world’s largest retailer at the time, received the most votes against, 15.65 percent of shares voted, according to Wal-Mart. A total of 13.1 percent voted against Duke, who was president of Wal-Mart International during the investigation, while 12.6 percent voted against Walton.

Audit Committee Chairman Christopher Williams had 13.3 percent of votes cast against him.

“It’s a strong vote of no confidence in the leadership and sends a strong message to the board,” said Michael Garland, executive director for corporate governance for New York City Comptroller John Liu.

Last year, all candidates received about 98 percent or more votes in favor of re-election, Wal-Mart said.

On Friday, Wal-Mart said all 15 board members were re-elected, a foregone conclusion as the family of founder Sam Walton controls roughly one-half of the company’s shares.