Let's not bury Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) just yet. Despite a disappointing November that found comps sliding by 0.1%, the world's largest retailer bounced back during the critical holiday shopping season, posting a 1.6% uptick in same-store sales for the month of December.

You may not be impressed by a mere 1.6% gain, but consider that Wal-Mart had been warning that comps for December would clock in somewhere between flat and up by 1%.

The gain may not vindicate Wal-Mart's move toward aggressive price cuts in leading categories such as consumer electronics, small consumer appliances, and toys, but at least we can exhale knowing that November's negative comps remain an anomaly. Even through recessions, Wal-Mart has managed to post positive growth at the store level. Initial summer weakness at retailers was written off as a byproduct of higher gas prices, but Wal-Mart's weakness continued, even as fuel prices settled back down in the fall.

Rubbing more salt in Wal-Mart's wounds, rival Target (NYSE:TGT) didn't suffer the same kind of stumble. Most estimates have retail in general growing roughly twice as briskly as Wal-Mart's 1.6% pace over the holidays, but for Wal-Mart, it'll do for now.

Wal-Mart was also a big winner in cyberspace, for which its same-store sales figures do not account. Growth, even if it's marginal growth, is important at Wal-Mart. Without taking baby steps forward, it would be hard pressed to grow its profits and shareholder distributions. The latter point is a significant one, since Wal-Mart has boosted its dividend every single year since 1974.

Rest easy, Sam Walton. The discounting empire that you built is starting to bounce back.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has probably spent more at Wal-Mart's online store than at its offline empire in recent years. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.