Sales Momentum Continues at Wal-Mart

TORONTO — Wal-Mart Stores [2] has carried its sales momentum from the fourth quarter into the new fiscal year, with sales and traffic at its U.S. stores remaining positive in February and March, Duncan Mac Naughton, executive vice president of merchandising for the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer, said Wednesday at the CIBC World Markets Retail and Consumer Conference here.

Mac Naughton said an effort to broaden assortment, improve on-shelf availability and re-emphasize everyday low prices at Wal-Mart resulted in positive comp sales and store traffic in the fourth quarter, which ended in late January — its first such quarterly gains in more than two years. That momentum has continued this year.

“We’re very confident and very excited that we have the right strategy, and that it’s working,” Mac Naughton said. Price investments in the U.S. will total around $1 billion this fiscal year and be funded by productivity improvements, Mac Naughton said.

The price investments will go toward food and consumables, which are major traffic drivers. Fresh departments should also benefit from newly launched programs to upgrade quality and presentation, including a USDA Choice beef offering and new processes improving freshness and quality in produce.

“This year we’re really focused on engaging with our customer and converting them to our meat department, so as they come in the store, we can become a destination for meat products,” Mac Naughton said.