NEW YORK » Walmart is missing out on the consumer comeback.
The world’s largest retailer failed to reverse an almost two-year slide in a key revenue measure in its fourth quarter, it said yesterday, after all but promising in November it would do just that.
Outside its aisles, holiday shoppers spent more, and consumer confidence is now at its highest point in three years. Walmart had fewer customers.
Walmart’s mistakes in merchandising and pricing, along with financial stress on its lower-income customers, forced it to rely on international growth and cost-cutting to post a 27 percent increase in net income in its fourth quarter.
Walmart’s 1.8 percent decline in revenue at U.S. discount stores open at least a year, its seventh straight quarterly drop, was worse than feared. That important measurement of a retailer’s health excludes stores that open or close during the year.
"Walmart’s holiday season was lackluster compared to everyone else," said Ken Perkins, president of research firm RetailMetrics.
For the past year the discounter has seen customer counts decline as it lost shoppers to rivals like dollar stores for quick trips to buy milk and diapers. Walmart had hoped sweeping changes, from restoring thousands of products it cut and going back to offering low prices across the store, would help sales rise again.
The company posted net income of $6.06 billion, or $1.70 per share, in the quarter ended Jan. 31. That compares with $4.76 billion, or $1.25 per share, a year earlier. Net sales, excluding membership and other income, increased 2.5 percent to $115.6 billion.