Walmart allays retail jitters with best holiday quarter in years

NEW YORK • Walmart Inc finally gave the US retail sector some good news.

The company brushed off the industry’s disappointing December sales with its best holiday quarter in at least a decade, soothing concerns about the sector’s outlook for 2019.

Comparable sales for Walmart stores in the US — a key performance barometer — rose 4.2% in the quarter that included Christmas, beating analysts’ estimates by a full percentage point. “This is a blockbuster quarter for Walmart,” Moody’s analyst Charlie O’Shea said in an interview.

Commerce Department figures released last week showed US retail sales fell 1.2% in December from the previous month, the most since 2009 — such a big drop that some analysts questioned if the data was undercounting online sales.

Walmart, like rivals, made a big push to grab former Toys “R” Us shoppers during the holiday season, boosting its toy assortment by 40% online and holding thousands of in-store events where kids could test out items. The gambit worked, as toys helped fuel the sales beat, CFO Brett Biggs said in an interview yesterday.

He declined to provide a sales figure for toys but said general merchandise sales — which also include home decor, apparel and electronics — rose by a mid-single-digit percentage in the quarter.

Walmart’s e-commerce sales in the US rose 43%, in line with forecasts, helped by a broader assortment of brands and increased online grocery sales. — Bloomberg