What's going on?
Retail giant Walmart posted better-than-expected quarterly earnings on Tuesday, as American shoppers took their newfound government-funded shopping habits in stride.
What does this mean?
Walmart’s sales jumped 6% last quarter compared to the same time last year – much more than the 2% increase analysts were anticipating. As for why, take your pick: it might’ve been the extra spending encouraged by the $2,000 stimulus checks, the extra market share Walmart poached from its grocery competitors during the pandemic, or simply the pent-up demand of a post-lockdown customer. Speaking of which, the sorts of products shoppers were buying shifted too: teeth whitener was a particular hot-seller, as newly unmasked customers prepared to flash their pearly whites once more.
Needless to say, all this spending is making Walmart feel pretty upbeat about the future: the retailer’s now gone from predicting a slight drop-off in earnings for the year to a “high single-digit percentage” rise.
Why should I care?
For markets: Ecommerce isn’t going anywhere.
Walmart likewise saw its ecommerce sales increase by 37% compared to the same time last year, even though online sales growth had been expected to decelerate as shoppers headed back into stores. That’ll come as a relief to Walmart: the company’s making moves to improve its ecommerce efforts by opening up its online marketplace to non-US vendors, in hopes it’ll tap into China’s vast network of manufacturers and close the gap with archrival Amazon.
Zooming out: Fashion is back in fashion.
Ecommerce expansion isn’t Walmart’s only new venture: it’s now buying a virtual fitting room business in an effort to sell more fashion-forward apparel. And it might be onto something: fresh US retail data shows that sales of clothing and accessories in April surged 727% from the year before (tweet this). That’s certainly gone down well at department store Macy’s, which reported a surprise profit on Tuesday and upped its forecast for the rest of the year.