What happened 

Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), the world's biggest retailer, gained 11% last month, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence, compared to a 2.8% boost for the broader market.

WMT Chart

WMT data by YCharts.

The increase contributed to an epic run for shareholders this year as Wal-Mart's 41% gain puts it in fifth place among the 30 members of the Dow in terms of year-to-date performance.

So what

November's rally was sparked by a surprisingly strong third-quarter earnings report. In that Nov. 16 announcement, Wal-Mart revealed that comparable-store sales gains sped up to a 2.7% pace from 1.8% in the prior quarter as customer traffic growth improved.

Customers walking in a Wal-Mart store.

Image source: Wal-Mart.

The retailer logged impressive results in its e-commerce business, too, with a 50% sales spike likely translating into market share gains in that key niche.

Now what

Contrary to many investors' fears, Wal-Mart is primed for a decent holiday shopping season thanks to a mix of rising digital sales and increasing customer traffic at its existing locations. But whether its stock price rally carries on into 2018 -- or falls flat -- will depend on management's ability to convert those top-line wins into profit growth since Wal-Mart's net income has now declined for two consecutive fiscal years.

Demitrios Kalogeropoulos has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.