David Fuller's view -
Not every milestone is worth celebrating.
For the first time ever -- or at least since the company went public some 45 years ago -- Walmart's revenues shrank from the year before, according to its annual financial filing released Wednesday.
Walmart is clearly having trouble adapting its gigantic stores to the Internet age. To be sure, it is a retail juggernaut that brings in half a trillion dollars (yes, that's right, trillion) in sales every year. And with more than 11,500 stores in 28 countries, there's no way it will disappear anytime soon.
Still, Walmart might have just hit its growth limit.
A New Low For Walmart
Walmart's annual sales in 2015 shrank for the first time since it went public 45 years ago.
And the sales dip comes despite the fact that Walmart spent $11.5 billion (roughly matching what J.C. Penney made in sales last year) to build more than 400 new stores, remodel old locations, and revamp its website and other Technology to better serve its customers.
Though Walmart shares were a safe haven in the rocky start of 2016, investors are pricing in more weakness. The stock has fallen behind retail competitors and the broader market.
In February, Walmart lowered its annual net sales growth forecast to "relatively flat," from earlier guidance that called for an increase of as much as 4 percent (the company has pointed out that previous guidance didn't account for currency changes, which have stung the global retailer).
Personally, I don’t like huge stores. They remind me of casinos in that it can be difficult to find your way out.
However, Walmart’s 45 years before a downturn in sales is amazing in the incredibly competitive retail sector. All of Walmart’s management skills will be required, I suspect, to prevent further downturns in this not only competitive but also disruptive environment led by Amazon.
I do not doubt that Walmart will maintain a competitive online system, but will most of their customers be comfortable shopping online? Also, will active online shoppers turn to Walmart?
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