Although Walmart won’t provide official fourth-quarter sales guidance until Nov. 15 when it releases third-quarter sales, company executives sounded very bullish about Walmart’s prospects for holiday success and longer-term growth during an all-day meeting with financial analysts on Wednesday.
A certain degree of bluster is expected at such events as all companies emphasize their growth strategies, but you get the sense that Walmart may have finally turned its big ship in the right direction, and within a year or two headlines about how the company is firing on all cylinders might begin showing up on analysts reports they way they did in the late 90s.
For example, Walmart U.S. is poised to end a run of nine consecutive quarters of negative comps, key merchandising initiatives are gaining traction, ambitious holiday marketing plans are in place and a recent pullback in gas prices is leaving shoppers with more money to spend on basics and some discretionary items. Sam’s is riding about as high as it has been in recent memory, with membership renewals at their best level in 10 years, broad-based sales strength and clearly defined strategies. The international division’s profit performance isn’t as strong as the company would like, but sales are solid and organic expansion potential in existing markets is such that it is only a matter of time before the international division surpasses those of the United States, with the timing of that eventuality determined by the pace as which global shoppers embrace the concept of every day low prices.
“We are the very, very best positioned retailer on the plant and this company is stronger today that it was one year ago at this meeting,” said Wal-Mart Stores president and CEO Mike Duke.
And judging from presentations by the several dozen executives Walmart put in front of analysts during the Webcast portion of the meeting, many of whom are new to the company or in their current positions only a short while, there are some really smart folks with diverse backgrounds running the business.
“The talent of leadership around the world is the strongest we have ever had and we are able to recruit the best leadership in retail,” Duke said.
That’s a good thing as far as investors are concerned because Walmart offered no indication that it plans to ease up on growth, despite having ample opportunities to improve the perf