BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Wal-Mart saw online sales surge as it changed up its shipping offers, and drew more shoppers to its stores as well in the most recent quarter even as retail overall is more competitive.
The world’s largest retailer said Thursday that sales at established stores rose for the eleventh straight quarter, and customer traffic rose for the tenth quarter in a row. That’s a contrast with many rivals that saw both those figures drop.
Online sales at Walmart.com rose 63 percent, dramatically up from the 29 percent growth in the previous quarter. Though the company has been buying up smaller internet retailers, Wal-Mart said a majority of the increase was through Walmart.com and was fueled by changes in its shipping strategy and a discount for shoppers who pick up their online orders.
“We’re transforming to become more of a digital enterprise,” said Doug McMillon, CEO and president of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
Wal-Mart’s report stood out amid a largely gloomy environment for retailers, after chains like Macy’s, Kohl’s, J.C. Penney and Target saw declines in comparable-store sales. Even off-price retailer TJX Cos., which has done better than many as customers hunt for bargains, missed forecasts for that sales measure. And it underscores Wal-Mart’s efforts to narrow the gap between itself and online leader Amazon.
Retails bankruptcies are setting a record pace this year, and store closures are expected to exceed those of 2008. Research firm RetailMetrics, which tracks results from more than a hundred chains, said overall they are expected to record a flat increase in revenue at established stores for the quarter, the worst performance since the third quarter of 2009. Excluding Wal-Mart’s results, there would be a 0.8 percent decline.
“Wal-Mart is effectively competing in a tough retail environment, and given its size, scale, and leverage will be able to stay the course on the current strategy,” Stifel analyst Mark S. Astrachan said.
The Bentonville, Arkansas-based company retooled how it operates online, as customers get used to free shipping and other enticements that hurt the bottom line.