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Will Walmart's E-Commerce Success Continue When It Reports Earnings?

By Danny Vena – Nov 13, 2018 at 3:07PM

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The world's largest retailer has been increasingly betting its future on digital sales, but comps have been tougher this year.

Walmart (WMT 0.21%) has surprised many investors with its significant move into the realm of e-commerce. The company has long been the largest brick-and-mortar retailer, but was slow to adapt to the growing trend of online sales. The company sought to rectify this oversight with a slew of acquisitions, the most notable of which being the purchase of in mid-2016. The company has been targeting year-over-year online sales increases of 40% this year, on top of the 44% gains it achieved last fiscal year.

Walmart is scheduled to report its fiscal 2019 third quarter financial results (which includes the period Jul. 28 through Oct. 26) before the market opens on Thursday, Nov. 15. Let's take a look at the company's most recent quarter to see if it provides any clues into what to expect when the company reports earnings.

A Walmart storefront against a blue sky with white, fluffy clouds.

Image source: Walmart.

Strong comps and online sales

When Walmart reported the results of its fiscal 2019 second quarter, which ran from April 28 through July 27, the results were much stronger than expected, sending the stock up over 9% the day of its financial report. Revenue of $128 billion, up 3.6% year over year in constant currency, and adjusted earnings per share of $1.29 both surpassed analysts' consensus estimates, which called for revenue of $125.97 billion and adjusted earnings per share of $1.07. 

One of the biggest contributors to the company's better-than-expected results was a boost to comparable-store sales, which jumped 4.5% year over year, the highest level of comps growth in more than a decade. The company saw strong sales in apparel, grocery, and seasonal items. More shoppers spending more money underpinned the retailer's strength, as foot traffic increased by 2.2%, while the average receipt climbed by 2.3% versus the prior-year quarter.

It wasn't just Walmart stores that saw increases, as Sam's Club comps grew by 5% year over year to mark its highest level of growth in six years. The contribution was mixed, as traffic increased by 6.7%, but the average ticket declined by 1.7%. International sales also contributed to the gains, increasing 4% year over year, or 3.1% excluding the impact of foreign exchange rate differences.

Investors have been watching the company's digital success closely, and Walmart delivered. Online sales surged 40% year over year, accelerating from a 33% increase in the first quarter. As a result, the company is on track to achieve its full-year goal of 40% online sales growth compared to fiscal 2018.

Walmart has used an omnichannel approach that allows customers to order online and have their purchases delivered, or have them available for pickup at their local store. This has also helped increase foot traffic, as customers will sometimes do additional shopping when they come to pick up their order.

The company is continuing to pursue that strategy, with its U.S. omnichannel business adding 1,100 new brands to its online assortment. Likewise, Walmart expects grocery pickup to be available to 40% of the U.S. population by year-end.

What the quarter may hold

Walmart doesn't provide a quarterly forecast, but based on the strength of the first half of fiscal 2019, the company raised its full-year guidance. Walmart now expects sales to increase by 2% year over year (in constant currency), up from its previously predicted 1.5% to 2% range. Walmart also anticipates earnings per share of between $2.90 and $3.05, and adjusted earnings per share in a range of $4.90 to $5.05.

The company's acquisition of Flipkart, India's foremost e-commerce site, is not included in any of these figures, as the deal had not closed at the end of last quarter. 

In the absence of quarterly figures from Walmart, we'll turn to Wall Street for its best guess, though we don't want to fall into its short-term mindset. Analysts' consensus estimates are calling for revenue of $125.45 billion and adjusted earnings per share of $1.01 in Walmart's next quarter.

Walmart has been able to leverage its physical retail stores to support its e-commerce ambitions, and that has worked out well for the company thus far. Watch for additional updates on its omnichannel sales strategy when the company reports earnings on Nov. 15.

Danny Vena 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.

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