Walmart Heads Into Winter With Strong Results

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Walmart is still going strong during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, as consumers continued stocking up on food and home necessities, and also shopping online a lot more.

As the U.S. heads into what health officials warn will be a tough winter, with COVID-19 cases spiking again all over the country, Walmart posted strong revenues for the third quarter of fiscal year 2021, with e-commerce sales surging again, this time by 79 percent.

In the three months ending Oct. 31, the company’s revenues rose to $134.7 billion, a 5.2 percent increase from last year. The retailer’s consolidated operating income was $5.8 billion in the quarter, a roughly 22.5 percent increase. Its consolidated net income for the period was $5.14 billion, and its adjusted earnings per share were $1.34. Comparable U.S. store sales for the quarter increased by 6.4 percent, according to the company.

“We think these new customer behaviors will largely persist, and we’re well positioned to serve customers with the value and experience they’re looking for,” Doug McMillon, Walmart president and chief executive officer, said in the company’s earnings statement.

Walmart shares were trading at roughly $152.15 Tuesday morning, a 0.2 percent dip.

In the earnings call with analysts on Tuesday, McMillon acknowledged the spikes in COVID-19 cases around the country, saying that the company was continuing to urge employees and customers to wear masks. Company executives also said they were still not providing fiscal year 2021 financial guidance in light of uncertainties related to the pandemic and its ongoing effects on the global economy.

At the same time, the company is still moving forward with holiday shopping events including Black Friday sales, which Walmart said last month that it would break up into “three separate savings events across the month of November,” rather than the usual single-day sale. And as it capitalizes on holiday shopping demands, the retailer has also been extending its store hours, Walmart executives said on the call.

In March, when the first pandemic lockdowns in the U.S. began to take effect and temporarily shut the doors of nonessential retailers, Walmart said it was modifying its U.S. store hours to 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. But the retailer has since expanded hours to 10 p.m. at night, and 11 p.m. in certain locations, and will continue to extend store hours this month.

“The recent rise in COVID-19 cases throughout the country reminds us we must remain vigilant,” McMillon said on the call.

“As we’ve done since the beginning of the outbreak, we’ll continue being disciplined about the safety protocols throughout our stores, clubs, distribution and fulfillment centers,” he said. “We’re reinforcing our messaging to customers, members and associates regarding wearing face coverings, social distancing and other safety measures.”

McMillon also acknowledged the company’s recent divestments in the U.K., where it said in October it was selling its English supermarket chain Asda, and in Argentina, where it recently revealed plans to sell its subsidiary to Grupo de Narváez. On Monday, Walmart revealed it was selling most of its Japanese subsidiary Seiyu, retaining a small minority stake.

“We know where to invest and will be aggressive where we should be while taking action in other areas,” McMillon said on the call.

On Tuesday, McMillon also noted President-elect Joe Biden’s win in the presidential election, and indicated he believed Congress should pass another stimulus package, in particular to support small businesses. Small vendors are key to Walmart’s Marketplace feature that competes with the likes of Amazon. Walmart Marketplace sales were a significant driver of the increase in the retailer’s e-commerce sales, according to the company.

“I want to wrap up by saying congratulations to President-elect Biden,” McMillon said on the call. “We look forward to working with the administration and both houses of Congress to move the country forward and solve issues on behalf of our associates, customers and other stakeholders.”

The number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. is climbing fast as the winter and the holiday season approach, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sounding alarm about the rise in cases and the importance of wearing masks.

The latest COVID-19 case numbers have risen to alarming highs. On Nov. 13, the CDC said there were some 194,000 new cases the previous day. On Nov. 16, there were 166,045 confirmed new cases in the U.S., according to the ongoing daily Johns Hopkins University tally of COVID-19 cases. Overall this year, there have been more than 11.2 million confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S., and some 247, 202 deaths from the illness, according to the Johns Hopkins tally.

The sharp increases in the number of cases in the U.S. is already stirring fears among some of Walmart’s competitors of a return to the type of panic buying by consumers seen last spring that saw the shelves of many stores, including Walmart, empty. Food retailers Kroger and Wegmans earlier this week reinstated limitations on the number of paper towels and tissues that consumers could buy.

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