Walmart Reports Rising Holiday Sales as Shoppers Seek Value

Walmart said its comparable store sales were up 4 percent in the three months that ended in late January compared with the year before. The number of transactions at Walmart rose 4.3 percent while the average ticket price slightly decreased by 0.3 percent, a sign that shoppers spent a little less during shopping trips.

In addition to its same-store sales, Walmart said its U.S. e-commerce business increased 17 percent.

John David Rainey, Walmart’s chief financial officer, said losses for the retailer’s e-commerce business were slowing and that the company was spending less on fulfillment costs and that more customers are using its delivery services.

Walmart is one of the first major retailers to report fourth-quarter earnings. Companies including Target, Macy’s and Kroger will do so in the coming weeks.

Compared with recent years, the latest holiday season was largely free from the pandemic’s disruptions. Supply-chain bottlenecks had eased, customers were back in stores and inflation had decelerated. Industrywide, holiday sales increased 3.8 percent, according to a release from the National Retail Federation in January. That was within the range that the trade organization predicted in November.

At the same time, many retailers, including Walmart, focused on value last year as the economy cooled and shoppers became more selective. Walmart’s sizable grocery business and emphasis on low prices helped insulate it from the sales declines that other retailers reported.

Analysts expect retail sales to continue to moderate this year after a surge in consumer spending during the early stages of the pandemic.

Some signs are already appearing. U.S. retail sales fell 0.8 percent in January from a month earlier, according to data released from the Commerce Department last week. It was a larger-than-expected loss. Inflation last month also cooled less than expected.

Still, Walmart sees this as a time to expand. On Tuesday, it said it expected both net sales and operating income to increase this year. Last month it said it planned to open 150 new locations, a big jump from the past few years. It has also been increasing pay, bonuses and benefits for store managers in a bid to retain them.