BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Comparable-store sales at Wal-Mart’s U.S. stores declined again in the second quarter, but officials of the retailer here on Tuesday highlighted improving sequential trends and a pace that could turn comps positive by year-end.
International acquisitions helped Wal-Mart improve overall quarterly sales 5.5% to $108.6 billion. Net earnings improved 5.7% to $3.8 billion. International sales totaled $30.1 billion, a 16.2% increase, while U.S. sales were flat at $64.9 billion, and Sam’s Club sales improved 9.5% to $13.6 billion. The 13-week quarter ended July 31.
Bill Simon, chief executive officer of Wal-Mart U.S., said sales gained momentum throughout the quarter, helped in part by a 90-day gas-discount program the retailer ran in 18 states. The program offers customers a 10-cent-per-gallon refund for fuel purchased with a Wal-Mart gift card.
Comparable grocery sales were positive in the “low single-digits” during the quarter, Simon said, adding that the retailer realized “minimal” pass-through of 3.5% quarterly grocery inflation as its core customers remained under intense economic pressure.
“Food inflation has surpassed gasoline price as the most important household concern,” Simon said.
Walmart Market stores (formerly Neighborhood Market) showed a 3% comp increase in the quarter, and their success is prompting a faster rollout, Simon said. Around 180 new Walmart Market stores have been approved over a multi-year period. Simon said he would provide additional details on the rollout in October.
Gross profit dollars improved 1.2% in the quarter for Walmart U.S., as the company lapped last year’s aggressive rollbacks and made improvements in efficiency, Simon said. Operating income in the division was up 2.1% to $5 billion.