Mon | Oct 16, 2017

Walmart online sales soar as it seeks to catch Amazon

Published:Friday | August 18, 2017 | 12:00 AM
In this Thursday, June 1, 2017, photo, customers walk out of a Walmart store in Hialeah Gardens, Florida. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Walmart's recent spending spree to try to catch up to Amazon seems to be paying off.

The world's largest retailer said Thursday that online sales soared 60 per cent in the past three months as people shopped more at Walmart.com, Jet.com and its other websites.

Walmart had paid more than US$3 billion for Jet last year, and since then picked up smaller players, including ModCloth and Moosejaw. It is also expanding online grocery ordering to more stores, and is adding giant automated kiosks to 100 locations so customers can pick up online orders without waiting for employees to fetch them.

Other traditional retailers are seeing online gains, too: Walmart's report came a day after Target said its online sales jumped 32 per cent in its most recent quarter.

But Amazon still poses a threat. The e-commerce giant is in the process of buying organic grocer Whole Foods in a US$13.7-billion deal. That could shake up the United States grocery business, where Walmart currently holds the largest share.

Greg Foran, who runs Walmart's US stores, said Amazon is a "strong competitor" and that Walmart will continue with its strategy and keep an eye on the rival.

"I don't know what they're going to do," Foran said, referring to Amazon. He added that the competition has pushed Walmart to make changes that has lifted its performance.

Walmart said sales rose 1.8 per cent at US stores open at least a year, the 12th straight quarter of growth for that measure. Shopper traffic rose 1.3 per cent. Sales at its international division fell one per cent.

Its profit, however, was hurt by costs related to boosting its online operations. Wal-Mart Stores Inc earned US$2.9 billion, or 96 cents per share, in the three months ending July 31, down from US$3.77 billion, or US$1.21 per share, in the same period a year ago.

Stripping out certain items, earnings were US$1.08 per share. That was a penny better than what analysts polled by Zacks expected.

The Bentonville, Arkansas-based company said revenue rose two per cent to US$123.36 billion.

The company raised the low end of its full-year earnings forecast by 10 cents. It now expects adjusted earnings between US$4.30 and US$4.40 per share for the year. It predicts third-quarter earnings of 90 cents to 98 cents per share. Analysts polled by FactSet predicted full-year earnings of US$4.36 per share and third-quarter earnings of 97 cents per share.

Walmart shares fell nearly two per cent to US$79.43 in morning trading on Thursday. Its shares are still up about 15 per cent since the beginning of the year.

- AP