Walmart’s (NYSE: WMT) latest earnings report beat analysts expectations today, with e-commerce sales growing by 43 percent during the company’s fourth quarter (November 2018-January 2019). The company’s online sales growth hit 40 percent for all of 2018.
Riding the wave, Walmart said it expects internet sales in 2019 to be up 35 percent, with growth each quarter between 30 and 40 percent.
The fourth quarter numbers are notable given the gloomy U.S. retail sales data released for December 2018. They also validate the retail giant’s steady website expansion during 2018, including partnering with high-end fashion, sports apparel and home decor companies, and adding its own in-house lines such as MoDRN, the home furnishings brand.
Another boost came from Walmart’s push into grocery delivery, a division that is already big and getting bigger. The retailer, which announced high profile autonomous delivery partnerships last year, is planning to have 1,600 stores ready for grocery delivery, and 3,100 grocery pick-up hubs, by the end of this year.
Sales at Walmart stores in the U.S. operating for at least 12 months were up 4.2 percent during the quarter. The company said traffic at stores was up just 0.9 percent, compared with growth of 1.6 percent in the prior year. The average shopper, however, spent 3.3 percent more. For the comparable year-earlier quarter, the average shopper spent 1 percent more.
Some of the sales increases stemmed from the U.S. government sending February checks to food stamp recipients in January ahead of the federal government shutdown, CNBC reported. That shift added 0.4 percent to Walmart’s comparable sales growth.
Walmart reported net income during the quarter of $3.69 billion, or $1.27 per share, compared with $2.18 billion, or 73 cents a share, a year earlier. Excluding one-time items, Walmart earned $1.41 per share, 8 cents ahead of analysts' expectations based on a survey by Refinitiv, CNBC reported.
Total revenue for the quarter, including the Sam's Club chain and Walmart's overseas business, was $138.8 billion, up 1.9 percent from a year ago. Total revenue for the year was $514.4 billion, an increase of $14.1 billion, or 2.8%.
Sam's Club e-commerce sales grew 21 percent for the quarter.
WalMart’s strong online showing suggests the world’s largest brick and mortar retailer is slowly gaining on Amazon. The latter still accounts for around 50 percent of all e-commerce sales in the U.S. But WalMart is now the third-largest online retailer in the country, after Amazon and eBay.