Wal-Mart is back. After struggling with a myriad of issues ranging from associate relations to in-stock conditions which resulted in a nearly four year sales slump, the world’s largest retailer (2.3 million associates worldwide) posted its best comparable store results at its U.S. stores in more than four years.
When chief executive Doug McMillon, who has spent his entire career at the Bentonville, AR merchant, took the helm three years ago, he promised he would make the only company he’s ever worked for more progressive and flexible. That meant restructuring the executive team, creating better morale at store level and investing heavily in e-commerce, where Wal-Mart was getting pummeled by online giant Amazon.
It’s taken the 50-year old CEO nearly 36 months to make those radical and sometimes painful changes, but financial results over the past year have indicated that Wal-Mart has measurably regained the spring in its step, which will make them even tougher to defend against in an already overcrowded marketplace.
In its fourth quarter ended January 31 (which included the busy holiday shopping period), Wal-Mart’s comp store revenue increased 1.8 percent in the U.S. (vs. 0.6 percent in last year’s fourth quarter) and its domestic e-commerce volume jumped 29 percent, aided by its $3.2 billion acquisition of jet.com in September. Mark Lore, co-founder of jet.com, is now spearheading Wal-Mart’s e-commerce business.
Other strong U.S benchmarks included a 2.8 percent sales gain in overall Wal-Mart bannered stores (to $83.7 billion), 1.4 percent traffic increase and a 0.4 bump in average transaction.
At its other U.S. banners – Sam’s Club and Neighborhood Market – the news was equally as good.