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Walmart to reveal growth plans, detail strategy next week

Walmart is set to hold its 18th annual fall analysts’ meeting next week and provide insight into a broad range of growth strategies, domestic turnaround efforts and international expansion. The event is scheduled to last from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Central Time, and while a detailed agenda wasn’t publicly available late Thursday, the company did say the video webcast will include slide presentations and question and answer sessions on the company’s three operating segments, Walmart U.S., Walmart International and Sam’s Club, as well as Global eCommerce, capital plans and the strategic direction for the coming fiscal year. In year’s past, the event has included store tours and a reception and dinner the evening before although there was no indication whether that would be the case again this year.

While analysts attending these type of functions are always interested in companies’ near term view of current business conditions, those looking for deep insight into the Walmart’s outlook for the holiday season or the status of third quarter sales are likely to be disappointed. Walmart doesn’t do mid-quarter guidance updates and don’t look for the company to start next week. Likewise, it would be very surprising in Walmart deviated from its standard commentary around the state of the consumer and how challenging economic conditions have resulted in a pronounced paycheck cycle.

Instead, the meeting has typically served as a venue for the disclosure of the coming year’s capital expenditure program, but here too there may not be much new news as the company has already indicated supercenters remain the primary growth driver for 2012 as smaller formats, while being expanded somewhat, remain a pilot program. It’s also no secret that the international division continues to garner a larger percentage of the cap-ex budget and that trend remains in place. Sam’s Club is something of a wild card as the division’s strong performance for the past 18 months may have the company rethinking its allocation of capital and new store plans.

Overall, one indication that Walmart may not have that much to say this year is that the meeting is relatively brief. Sure, the event will occupy the better part of a day, but Walmart is a massive company with lots of things going on and conceivably could spend an entire day discussing the wide range of strategies in play at the stores division or doing a deep dive on some of the major markets that comprise the international division. Instead, the meeting Walmart has planned won’t last much longer than those of some single-division retailers whose operations are limited to the United States.

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