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Wal-Mart Q4 Profits Up 8%; U.S. CE Share Rises

Bentonville, Ark. – Wal-Mart said net income rose 7.9 percent to $5.6 billion and net sales increased 3.9 percent to $127.1 billion for its fiscal fourth quarter, ended Jan. 31.

Same-store stores edged up 1 percent, thanks partly to CE comp and share gains in the U.S.

For the full year, profits increased 7.8 percent to nearly $17 billion and net sales rose 5 percent to $466.1 billion.

In the U.S., sales at flagship Walmart stores increased 2.6 percent for the quarter, to $74.7 billion, and comp sales increased 1 percent excluding gasoline sales, due in part to a 50-basis-point increase in CE share, as measured by The NPD Group, and an increase in average ticket of 1.1 percent. For the full year, sales rose 3.9 percent to $264.2 billion, and comps increased 1.8 percent.

Walmart U.S. president/CEO Bill Simon said the CE share gain came despite a mid-single-digit decline in category comps, pointing to continued overall deflation in the industry and the conversion to digital. “These results were balanced by strong performance in tablets and wireless,” he noted, with mobile comps growing double digits due to the additions of the iPhone 5 and the Samsung Galaxy II smartphones to its prepaid Straight Talk program.

Simon noted that sales in late January and February were slower than planned due in large part to the delay in income tax refunds. Simon and other senior executives had been quoted in leaked emails and memos attributing weak January and February sales to the refund delay and higher payroll taxes.

Added Wal-Mart Stores president/CEO Mike Duke, “Walmart U.S. is as strong as it has ever been, and we continue to build on that position. We have positive comp performance and grew market share in a number of categories, and I fully expect that trend to continue in this new year … Our EDLP [everyday low-price] promise – along with the broad assortment – is the key to driving sales.  Strong merchandising, efficient operations and thoughtful use of capital will keep Walmart U.S. strong into the future. “ 

At Sam’s Club, fourth-quarter sales increased 3.4 percent to $14.5 billion and comps climbed 2.3 percent excluding fuel, buoyed by a low-single-digit gain in CE comps and a 20-basis point gain in wireless share, according to NPD data. For the full year, sales rose 4.9 percent to $56.4 billion and comps climbed 3.6 percent.

Sam’s Club president/CEO Rosalind Brewer, acknowledged that “the fourth quarter is important for our technology and entertainment area,” and that the division “invested in price and had one of the best holiday offers in retail,”  including leading brand items such as the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the Apple iPhone 5 smartphones.

“Sales of the Apple iPad also grew, as we offered great prices and saw double-digit unit growth,” she said, and also pointed to a successful season for TVs with 70-inches or greater displays.

Conversely, Sam’s Club saw “significant declines” in office electronics, video games, movies and music, as consumers continued to “shift to digital consumption for these products,” she said.