Walmart Inc.’s U.S. ecommerce sales shot up by 74% in the first quarter ended May 1 as the coronavirus outbreak drove more shoppers to buy online and pick up outside Walmart stores, the world’s largest retailer announced today.
Walmart also disclosed that it is shuttering Jet.com, the upscale online marketplace it acquired in 2016 for $3.3 billion. The retailer had in recent years cut marketing for Jet.com to focus on the Walmart.com brand and moving Jet employees into the Walmart ecommerce operation. Walmart executives today credited the Jet acquisition with helping jumpstart Walmart’s online sales, especially outside of the grocery category.
In a conference call with analysts, Walmart executives reported that four-times more customers tried curbside pickup for the first time compared with recent periods, with particularly strong growth among shoppers over 50. The retailer also began using 2,500 of its roughly 4,800 U.S. stores to fulfill online orders as surging online demand over-stretched the capacity of its ecommerce fulfillment centers.
“We continue to leverage our unique assets in ways only Walmart can,” Walmart ecommerce CEO Marc Lore told analysts, pointing to its ability to quickly turn on ship-from-store at thousands of stores and to recruit new companies to sell on the marketplace section of Walmart.com. He mentioned Champion, Keds and Rayban as new sellers on Walmart.com and said marketplace sales grew faster than Walmart’s own online sales in the quarter, but didn’t provide details.
Ecommerce losses decrease
Increased marketplace sales, for which Walmart earns a commission, helped narrow ecommerce losses during the quarter, as did more online sales in such higher-margin categories as apparel and home goods, company executives said.
“When we have a strong ecommerce business in apparel, home and marketplace, it sure does help,” CEO Doug McMillion said today. “In the end, we’ll end up with an omnichannel business, and it will serve customers in the ways they want to be served.”
Walmart spent $900 million in expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic, two-thirds of it on employee wage increases and bonuses, executives said. Nonetheless, the company’s operating income increased 5.6% to $5.2 billion.
Combining grocery and general merchandise in the Walmart app
John Furner, president and CEO of Walmart U.S. said on today’s call that Walmart has rolled out this week a new mobile app that combines its main shopping app with the Walmart Grocery app. At the same time, he said, Walmart also has made more non-grocery items—which typically have higher margins—available for curbside pickup.
As a result, McMillon said, it will “end up being that you can do kind of really quick pickup or delivery from a store location,” according to a transcript provided by SeekingAlpha. “And it will be inclusive of general merchandise which helps us with mix and also improves the current one. So our language will probably evolve away from online grocery to just be pickup and delivery.”
While Amazon.com Inc. has a big lead over Walmart in app downloads over time, that gap has narrowed since the coronavirus outbreak began, according to data from Sensor Tower, which tracks mobile app downloads and features. Between March 1 and May 18 there were 6.2 million downloads of Walmart’s main shopping app and 3.4 million of its grocery app, compared to 8 million downloads of Amazon’s primary shopping app and 559,000 of the Amazon Prime Now app that provides free delivery of everyday items to Amazon Prime members in big cities.
Amazon has a much bigger historical lead, as consumers have downloaded its main shopping app 202.7 million times versus 103.2 million for Walmart’s shopping app, according to Sensor Tower, whose data tracks Apple app downloads since early 2012, and Android app downloads since 2014. The Walmart Grocery app has 19.3 million downloads overall and Amazon Prime Now 13.3 million, Sensor Tower says.
Walmart gets high marks from stock analysts
Investment analysts Michael Baker and Steve McManus of Instinet LLC, a Nomura subsidiary, called Walmart’s results the “standout” among retailers that have reported earnings recently. While saying the retailer’s big jump in online sales was no surprise, they added in a note to investors today, “Walmart’s past investments in online capabilities, particularly curbside pickup, are clearly paying off.”
Karen McShane of Goldman Sachs said Walmart may benefit in the months ahead from four trends: more consumer cooking at home, “e-comm adoption and new customer acquisition,” consumers looking to Walmart to save money and retail consolidation.
Walmart is No. 3 in the 2020 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000.
For the first fiscal quarter ended May 1, Walmart reported:
- Total revenue increased 8.6% to $134.6 billion from $123.9 billion in the same quarter a year earlier. U.S. revenue, excluding gasoline, increased 10.5% to $88.7 billion from $80.3 billion.
- U.S. ecommerce sales increased 74% year over year.
- Comparable-store sales for Walmart stores in the U.S. increased 10.0%, with ecommerce contributing 3.9 percentage points to that increase. In last year’s fiscal first quarter, comp-store sales grew 3.4%, with online accounting for 1.8 percentage points of that increase.
- Ecommerce grew by 40% in the company’s Sam’s Club warehouse club unlit.
- Sam’s Club comp-store sales grew 12.0% in the quarter, with ecommerce accounting for 1.7 percentage points of that lift. In the prior-year quarter, same-store sales increased 0.3%, but ecommerce accounted for a 1.5 percentage point increase in comp-store results, which means that bricks-and-mortar comp-store sales declined in that quarter.
- Walmart International total sales grew $29.8 billion from $28.8 billion, and the company reported a 3.4% percentage increase that may not align with the dollar totals because of rounding.
- Total operating income increased 5.6%. The company gave a rounded figure of $5.2 billion for operating income in the quarter, up from $4.9 billion a year earlier.