Wal-Mart reports weak 1st-quarter sales, blames weather, tax issues

Wal-Mart reports disappointing first quarter earnings.
(Daniel Aguilar / Getty Images)

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. reported slight upticks in revenue and profit in its first quarter, but the retail behemoth still missed Wall Street’s expectations and watched its stock suffer in morning trading.

The Bentonville, Ark., mega-chain blamed higher payroll taxes, delayed income tax refunds and bitter weather for less-than-stellar performance in the quarter ended April 30.

Wal-Mart customer tend to be especially sensitive to such changes -- which Wal-Mart Chief Executive Mike Duke in a statement called “considerable headwinds to top-line sales.”


While on a conference call with analysts, he even mentioned that the company had experienced the “latest snowfall in the history of Arkansas reporting” at its headquarters during the period.

Net income crept up 1.1% to $3.8 billion. Earnings per share rose 4.6% to $1.14 -- a disappointment to analysts who had expected $1.15 a share.

Revenue at the giant discounter swelled to $114.2 billion, a 1% boost from the same period a year earlier (which had an extra day because of the leap year).

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But same-store sales -- which measure sales at locations open at least a year -- caught Wal-Mart off guard. The company had expected the gauge to be flat; instead, excluding fuel, it slid 1.4%.

“Frankly, we had a more difficult quarter than expected,” Duke said in the conference call. In mid-session trading, the retailer’s stock was down 2.1% or $1.65, to $78.21 a share.

Still, Wal-Mart was optimistic. Online sales grew more than 30% compared to the year-earlier period. Same-store sales are expected to increase from flat to 2% in the current quarter, though the growth will be smaller than the 2.2% expansion during the second quarter of 2012.

The company runs 10,857 stores in 27 countries. After a bribery scandal in Mexico last year, the company continues to boost its worldwide compliance programs, Duke said.


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