BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Comparable-store sales declined by 1.3% at Wal-Mart ’s U.S. stores in the third quarter, but company officials highlighted an improving sequential sales trend and better earnings for the period, which ended Oct. 29.
The comp decline — which was within the company’s expected range — resulted as shoppers continued to battle difficult economic conditions, with the “paycheck cycle” of heavy sales and traffic at the beginnings of the month still prominent, especially in grocery, said Bill Simon, president and chief executive officer of Walmart U.S. in a prerecorded conference call Tuesday.
Food comps were a “solid positive” for the quarter, Simon added, with strong performance in fresh foods, snacks, beverages and bakery, as well as Halloween candy. Traffic in U.S. stores and average ticket both decreased compared with the same period last year, and overall sales were down 0.1% to $62.2 billion.
In Canada, Wal-Mart comp-store sales declined by 0.4% although market share of food and consumables increased as the company operated 40 more Supercenters than it did a year ago in Canada. Comp sales in the Sam’s Club division increased by 2.4%, exceeding guidance, but operating income at Sam’s decreased 7.1% as expenses for credit-card interchange, store renovations and marketing all increased.
A 9.3% sales increase from international operations helped Wal-Mart post an overall 3.1% sales gain to $101.2 billion in the quarter. Net income of $3.4 billion improved by 9% as a result of better expense leverage and a tax benefit of $119 million.