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Wal-Mart, Sam’s Sales Remain Stagnant

BENTONVILLE, ARK. — Wal-Mart, parent of the Walmart and Sam’s Club chains, posted admirable fourth-quarter and full-year earnings in 2014, but remained mired in flattish sales trends.

For its fiscal fourth quarter ended Jan. 31, consolidated net sales rose 1.4 percent to $130.7 billion while earnings rose 12.1 percent to $5 billion.

Sales results include a $2.6 billion impact from unfavorable currency fluctuations.

For the full fiscal year, consolidated net sales rose 1.9 percent, to $482.2 billion, including a $5.3 billion hit from currency exchange rates, while earnings increased 2.1 percent to $16.4 billon.

Total e-commerce sales rose about 22 percent for the year, with a marked shift toward m-commerce. Specifically, 70 percent of U.S. online traffic originated from a mobile device during the holiday period, noted president/CEO Doug McMillon, and traffic from the mobile app in Brazil nearly tripled on Black Friday.

The company plans to invest upward of $1.5 billion in its digital and e-commerce capabilities, chief financial officer Charles Holley said. The spending will be focused on its global technology platform, next-gen fulfillment network, recruitment, and digital and physical integration, noted global e-commerce CEO Neil Ashe.

Walmart also expects to more than double its online assortment this year to over 10 million SKUs.

At Walmart U.S., net sales rose 4.1 percent during the fourth quarter to $79.6 billion, and comps increased 1.5 percent. The period represented the first positive traffic comp since the third quarter of fiscal 2013, noted Walmart U.S. president/ CEO Greg Foran, and total completed transactions neared the 1 billion mark.

To address stagnant comps, Foran has developed a new strategic plan for the division, which he is scheduled to present to the financial community on March 31 in New York, along with a review of his first 100 days on the job.

At sister chain Sam’s Club, net sales for the quarter edged up 1.3 percent, to $14.9 billion, and comp sales increased 2 percent.

Separately, the retailer announced a plan to increase the pay rates of hourly sales associates. Effective this April, full and part-time workers at Walmart will earn at least $1.75 above the federal minimum wage, or $9 per hour, while current associates will earn at least $10 an hour by Feb. 1, 2016.

Starting pay at Sam’s Club will be $9.50 per hour, beginning in the first half of the fiscal year, Brewer said.

McMillon said the company will also provide its associates with greater training and career advancement opportunities and a more predictable work schedule, while Walmart U.S. is also realigning its store operational structure and adding back department managers “to give associates a closer relationship with their supervisors to help improve communication, direction and recognition,” Foran said.