Wal-Mart’s Q4 Comp Sales Best Since 2012; Traffic Also Grows

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The company said that its grocery, health and wellness, and apparel were some of the top-performing categories at its U.S. stores, despite a slow beginning to the quarter for cold-weather merchandise. Electronics, media and gaming were soft.

At its long beleaguered club store operations, comps (ex-fuel) increased 2.4 percent and overall sales jumped 3 percent. Additionally, in-store traffic and average transaction size both grew 1.2 percent.

And at Neighborhood Markets, the fastest growing Wal-Mart banner, comps surged 5.3 percent in the 13-week period.

On a global basis, the Bentonville Behemoth rang up fourth quarter sales of $130.9 billion (a 3 percent increase, excluding currency variables). Total sales for its fiscal year were $496.9 billion (a 3.1 percent gain, excluding currency variables).

If there was one somber note to Wal-Mart’s Q4 financial performance it was that earnings were slightly down. In its core U.S. stores, profit dipped by 2.5 percent to $4.99 billion and on a worldwide analysis, earnings dipped 3.4 percent. However, many analysts felt the decline could be attributed to much higher than usual cap-ex spending to improve infrastructure and bolster its e-commerce initiatives.

Wal-Mart also noted that it generated $11.9 billion in operating cash flow and returned $3.6 billion to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases.

“We’re moving with speed to become more of a digital enterprise and better serve customers. We had a very solid fourth quarter with U.S. comp sales growth of 1.8 percent and U.S. e-commerce GMV growth of 36 percent. Our international business is consistently delivering solid sales growth in constant currency, and Sam’s Club posted its best comp sales growth of the year. I want to thank our talented associates for their work. We have more work to do, but I’m pleased with our progress,” said McMillon.