Walmart’s (WMT) turnaround is gaining speeding thanks to its massive investments in recent years to overhaul its e-commerce and upgrade thousands of its U.S. stores’ grocery business.
The discount chain, which is the world’s largest company, reported on Thursday that comparable sales at its namesake U.S. stores rose 2.7% in the third quarter, their 13th straight period of growth. And more crucially for any retailer competing with Amazon.com (AMZN), the chain got more shoppers to come for a visit. Online revenue in the U.S. rose 50%.
The strong numbers in the U.S., where Wal-Mart Stores gets nearly 60% of revenues, sent shares up 3% in premarket trading and raised confidence in its prospects as it heads into the peak of the holiday season.
“Across almost all categories, we’re seeing growth. The food business, in particular, has accelerated,” Wal-Mart Stores CEO Doug Macmillon said of the U.S. performance. Sam’s Club, Walmart’s sister chain, continued its recovery with a 2.8% increase in comparable sales. (Walmart International saw sales rise 4.1%)
Walmart has poured billions of dollars in the last three years to build out services like grocery curbside pickup to push back at Amazon’s encroachments in food, equipping stores to handle online orders, building up its own own mobile payment app and the expansion of its online assortment are spurring shoppers to come into stores. It is also stoking shopper traffic by giving customers a discount if they come pick up an online order at a store.
Walmart’s web site now has about 70 million items, about triple the number compared to a year ago. Walmart has in the last 15 months bought web sites like jet.com, Bonobos and Modcloth, and will soon offer U.S. department store Lord & Taylor a storefront on Walmart.com as it emerges as a counterweight to Amazon, though it remains far behind its rival in online revenue.
The retailer gets about 56% of its $300 billion in U.S. sales from its food business, for which it remodeled the grocery section at thousands of stores last year. McMillon said that business had its best quarter in six years, a development that could be ominous for Target as that rival looks to finally fix its grocery division.
Wal-Mart reported earnings of $1.00 a share, excluding items, compared with a forecast profit of 97 cents per share, while total revenue was $123.18 billion, above an estimate of $121 billion, according to Thomson Reuters.