Walmart reported lower-than-expected earnings on Tuesday, reflecting soft holiday-season sales and slowing e-commerce growth.
Comparable sales at Walmart’s U.S. stores open at least a year rose just 1.9% in the last quarter, falling short of analysts’ estimates of 2.35% as well as the 4.1% increase from the year-ago period.
Walmart earned $1.38 per share as overall revenue rose 2.1% to $141.67 billion. But analysts had expected earnings of $1.43 per share on revenue of $142.49 billion.
“We started and finished the quarter with momentum, while sales leading up to Christmas in our U.S. stores were a little softer than expected,” CEO Doug McMillon said in a news release.
According to CFO Brett Biggs, sales were soft in apparel, toys, media and gaming. “There were some things in apparel, which we could have done differently in hindsight. We were a little more seasonal there than we should have been,” he told Reuters.
U.S. online sales jumped 35% in the quarter but that was the slowest growth in almost two years and a decrease from the 41% rise a year ago. Rival Amazon, by contrast, has claimed that it posted “record-breaking” sales during the holiday season.
Walmart’s results reveal “the pressure traditional retailers are facing to keep pace with consumers who are increasingly shopping online,” Reuters said, noting that Target, Kohl’s, and Macy’s also posted disappointing holiday sales in 2019.
For fiscal 2021, Walmart expects the slowdown in e-commerce growth to continue, predicting an increase of about 30%.
“Though Walmart’s grocery business has been fueling digital sales, the e-commerce business is still unprofitable,” CNBC said. “Transportation costs and other expenses are pressuring margins. Walmart also has to figure out how to sell other products, beyond grocery, on the internet.”
The company also forecast earnings within a range of $5.00 to $5.15 a share, below analysts’ estimates of $5.22 per share.
“Walmart’s weak guidance outlook for 2021 indicate that more storm clouds are on the horizon, even without accounting for the effects of coronavirus’ spread,” Jesse Cohen, a senior analyst at Investing.com, told Reuters.