Wal-Mart online sales soar as it challenges Amazon
Bentonville, Ark. — Wal-Mart’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 percent in the past three months as people shopped more at Walmart.com, Jet.com and its other websites.
Wal-Mart had paid more than $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: Wal-Mart’s report came a day after Target said its online sales jumped 32 percent 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 $13.7 billion deal. That could shake up the U.S. grocery business, where Wal-Mart currently holds the largest share.
Greg Foran, who runs Wal-Mart’s U.S. stores, said Amazon is a “strong competitor” and that Wal-Mart 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 Wal-Mart to make changes that has lifted its performance.
Wal-Mart said sales rose 1.8 percent at U.S. stores open at least a year, the 12th straight quarter of growth for that measure. Shopper traffic rose 1.3 percent. Sales at its international division fell 1 percent.
Its profit, however, was hurt by costs related to boosting its online operations. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. earned $2.9 billion, or 96 cents per share, in the three months ending July 31, down from $3.77 billion, or $1.21 per share, in the same period a year ago.
Stripping out certain items, earnings were $1.08 per share. That was a penny better than what analysts polled by Zacks expected.
The Bentonville, Arkansas-based company said revenue rose 2 percent to $123.36 billion.
The company raised the low end of its full-year earnings forecast by 10 cents. It now expects adjusted earnings between $4.30 and $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 $4.36 per share and third-quarter earnings of 97 cents per share.
Wal-Mart shares fell nearly 2 percent to $79.43 in morning trading Thursday. Its shares are still up about 15 percent since the beginning of the year.