Walmart sticks with second-half outlook after earnings beat expectations

Walmart on Tuesday said sales grew more than 8%, but profits tightened in the fiscal second quarter, as consumers turned to the discounter for groceries and essentials.

Shares rose more than 4% in premarket trading.

The retailer’s results surpassed analysts’ expectations but echoed its profit warning last month when Walmart said inflation-pinched shoppers were buying less high-margin discretionary merchandise like apparel as they spent more on necessities.

Walmart reiterated its forecast for the back half of the year, even as it sells through a glut of inventory. It expects same-store sales for Walmart U.S. to grow by about 3%, excluding fuel, for the second half of the year, or about 4% for the full year. It anticipates adjusted earnings per share will decline between 9% and 11% for the full year.

Some of Walmart’s sales gains came from inflation, which is driving up the prices of food and other items. The retailer’s reputation as a discounter is also attracting more middle- and high-income shoppers, Chief Financial Officer John David Rainey told CNBC. About three-quarters of Walmart’s market share gains in food came from customers with annual household incomes of $100,000 or more. 

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Walmart also sees signs of a budget-strapped consumer who is trading down “in terms of quality and quantity,” he said. For example, he said, shoppers are increasingly using credit more than debit, he said. They are opting for smaller packages of food and buying items like canned tuna and beans instead of deli meats and beef. 

“Clearly, they’re stressed from higher gas prices, higher food prices, and even housing,” he said.

Here’s what Walmart reported for the fiscal second quarter ended July 31, compared with Refinitiv consensus estimates:

  • Earnings per share: $1.77 adjusted vs. $1.62 expected
  • Revenue: $152.86 billion reported vs. $150.81 billion expected

Walmart’s net income for the quarter rose to $5.15 billion, or $1.88 per share, compared with $4.28 billion, or $1.52 per share a year earlier. 

Same-store sales for Walmart U.S. grew 6.5% in the second quarter, excluding fuel, compared with the year-ago period. That was higher than the 5.9% growth that analysts expected, according to StreetAccount.

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E-commerce sales rose 12% compared with the year-ago period and 18% on a two-year basis.

The company reported low double-digit comparable sales growth in grocery and high single-digit gains in health and wellness. Sales of general merchandise fell mid-single-digits, due to softness in electronics, apparel, and home products, the company said.

Walmart’s news sent shares of retail rival Target about 3% higher in premarket trading, too. Target is set to report its latest quarterly results on Wednesday morning.

Both Walmart and Target issued warnings in recent months that they needed to discount some items to try to get them off of shelves and out of store backrooms before the all-important holiday season, which would hit profits in the near term.

Selling through excess inventory

Chief Executive Officer Doug McMillon told analysts on a conference call that Walmart has made “good progress” selling through excess inventory, and it has also found other areas in the business to cut costs. For example, he said Walmart reduced the number of shipping containers in its system by more than half from first-quarter levels to bring them much closer to historical averages, he said.

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Walmart’s inventory levels in the U.S. were up 25.6% in the second quarter compared with a year ago, which the company said was mainly due to the increased cost of goods and higher levels of general merchandise.

McMillon said Wednesday that Walmart will have a cleaner inventory position by the time Halloween rolls around.

“I expect a strong finish to the back-to-school season and we will quickly transition to the holidays,” he told analysts.

Walmart’s membership-based warehouse club, Sam’s Club, has also attracted new customers amid inflation. Membership hit an all-time high in the quarter. Same-store sales for the club grew 9.5%, excluding fuel, slightly below the 10.1% expected, according to StreetAccount.

As of Monday’s close, Walmart shares are down about 8% so far this year. Shares closed on Monday at $132.60, bringing the company’s market value to $363.48 billion.

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