Walmart beats Wall Street’s holiday expectations as e-commerce sales soar

Earnings

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A Walmart in Atlanta, Georgia, on Sunday, Feb. 19, 2023.
Dustin Chambers | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Walmart will report its holiday quarter results on Tuesday morning, as investors try to get a clearer picture of what the year ahead holds for retailers and the U.S. economy.

Here’s what Wall Street analysts expect, according to a survey by LSEG, formerly known as Refinitiv:

  • Earnings per share: $1.65
  • Revenue: $170.71 billion

As the nation’s largest retailer and private employer, Walmart often serves as a barometer for how consumers feel about their finances and how they are managing challenges like elevated grocery prices. The company will also kick off the major earnings season for the retail industry.

Walmart said in November that it expected full-year adjusted earnings per share of $6.40 to $6.48. It also said it anticipates consolidated net sales will rise 5% to 5.5%, also an increase from its prior range. 

There are early clues that broader trends may bode well for Walmart’s fourth quarter. Holiday sales rose 3.8% year over year to $964.4 billion, according to the National Retail Federation. Those figures are tallied during November and December, but exclude sales at automobile dealers, gas stations and restaurants.

On the other hand, consumer spending dropped more than expected in January, according to the Commerce Department. It may indicate shoppers have paused purchases beyond the necessities as holiday bills came due.

Walmart has weathered high inflation better than many other retailers. It has used its value reputation to draw in families across income levels and leaned into new ways to make money, such as selling ads, expanding its third-party marketplace and offering a subscription-based program called Walmart+.

As many other companies have announced cost cuts, Walmart has done the opposite. It announced in late January that it would open or expand more than 150 stores in the U.S. over the next five years. That’s on top of an aggressive plan to upgrade more than 1,400 of its existing Walmart stores to have a more modern look.

Along with those store investments, Walmart said it would raise store manager wages to an average of $128,000 per year and make managers eligible for a bonus of up to 200% of their base salary.

It also announced a 3-for-1 stock split in late January, as shares hovered near an all-time high.

Even so, Walmart said the year ahead could bring new complexities. CEO Doug McMillon told investors on a November earnings call that deflation could be coming as prices of general merchandise and groceries fall. Those lower prices would likely ding Walmart’s top-line sales numbers, but could free up cash for customers to buy more discretionary items.

Shares of Walmart closed on Friday at $170.36, up about 8% so far this year. The stock has outperformed the S&P 500, which rose about 5% during the same period.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

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