Wal-Mart
Photograph by Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

Wal-Mart’s lackluster 2014 hits top execs’ pay

Apr 23, 2015

Wal-Mart Stores (wmt) had a mediocre year last fiscal year, a performance that directly hit the pocketbooks of its top executives.

While the world's largest retailer reported net income of $16.2 billion on total sales of $485.7 billion for the year that ended January 31, up a bit from a year earlier, Wal-Mart's comparable sales (sales at stores open at least a year, combined with digital sales) at its U.S. namesake stores rose a paltry 0.6%, helped largely by a decent though not stellar holiday quarter. And at Sam's Club, comp sales stagnated, while Walmart International saw total sales edge down 0.3%.

Under Wal-Mart's pay-for-performance guidelines, at least 70% of its very top executives' target total direct compensation depends on hitting specific performance targets related to sales, operating income, and return on investment. But because of the tepid sales and profit numbers last fiscal year, the top brass missed out on a big chunk of the potential bonuses.

"As a result of this performance, our fiscal 2015 annual cash incentive payments were significantly below target levels," Wal-Mart said in its proxy statement filed late Wednesday.

In his first year as CEO, Doug McMillon stood to get a cash bonus of up to $3.84 million, but instead only got $2.88 million, or 75% of the potential payout. (Don't feel too bad for him: his total compensation was $19.392 million, but still, that was down from $25.592 million in the prior year.) Chief Financial Officer Charles Holley similarly only got 75% of the cash bonus he could have earned.

Sam's Club CEO Rosalind Brewer got a bigger bonus and base salary than last year, though her total compensation was down because of a smaller stock award. Still, her cash payout was only 79% of what it could have been. As for Neil Ashe, CEO of Walmart Global E-commerce, he only got 71% of the cash bonus he was up for. That's not entirely surprising given that McMillon in February had called the e-commerce results over the key holiday season "solid, but not quite as strong as we wanted" despite huge investments and, to be fair, progress, in Wal-Mart's e-commerce muscle.

For details on executive compensation at Wal-Mart, see pages 52 and 66 of the proxy statement.

All these executives stand to get a bigger chunk of their potential bonus this year the strategies Wal-Mart is implementing work. In the U.S., under new division CEO Greg Foran, Wal-Mart is on a big campaign to improve the selection of fresh food (grocery is more than half of the unit's sales), the regular replenishment of stock on store shelves and customer service. At Sam's Club, Brewer is betting on the new slew of services as well as new features it is testing, like curbside pickup, to lift its sales. Meanwhile, e-commerce is front and center in McMillon's strategy.

Still, Wal-Mart's forecast for the current year, which it shared in February, showed that it still has a ways to go: its initial profit per share projection disappointed Wall Street analysts, while U.S. comparable sales are expected to only grow 1% to 2%.

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