business news in context, analysis with attitude

Wal-Mart’s April same-store sales, which were down 3.5 percent compared to a year ago, are said to be the worst in at least 28 years, and were even worse than expected; the company had forecast that at best its same-store sales for the month would be flat, and at worst they would be down two percent.

Wrong on both counts.

The Wall Street Journal this morning reports that the retailer is blaming “bad weather last month in most U.S. regions and the early Easter on April 8, which pushed many Easter sales into March.”

For the first quarter,, the WSJ writes, Wal-Mart “reported a preliminary sales tally of $85.4 billion. Its 3.5% decline in same-store sales was comprised of a 4.6% decline at its flagship U.S. Division -- which includes its more than 3,200 supercenters, discount stores and Neighborhood Markets -- and a 2% gain by its Sam's Club division.

“Technically, Wal-Mart's 3.5% April decline ranks as Wal-Mart's worst monthly showing in the 28 years it has reported such figures, handily outpacing the previous worst 0.6% decline in April 1996. In a broader context, the result was pulled down by scheduling quirks in addition to Wal-Mart's increasing difficulty in topping its own year-ago numbers.”

Actual April numbers are expected to be reported next week.

The Journal also writes: “Wal-Mart has cited additional factors in recent months. Its efforts to remodel sections of hundreds of stores this year have temporarily disrupted shoppers, spurring some to go elsewhere. And Wal-Mart still is suffering a hangover from its overly aggressive effort last year to broaden its base of customers to include more affluent shoppers. Specifically, it has labored early this year to sell at discounted prices piles of women's fashion apparel left over from last year's program.

“Wal-Mart this year has opted to return its marketing and its merchandise to a focus on its roots: low prices on everyday items. Thus, if Wal-Mart isn't going to attract entire new classes of customers, it must fuel its sales gains by drawing more purchases out of the shoppers already visiting its stores routinely. Wal-Mart disclosed this morning that customer visits to its U.S. Division stores declined last month -- continuing a trend -- but the size of the average purchase shoppers made at its stores increased.”
KC's View:
We almost never lead with a financial story,, but this one was a no-brainer.

But here’s what we want to know.

How long until the “Lee Scott must go” drumbeat starts?

Because there must be an increasing number of folks out there who believe that, whether or not Wal-Mart’s problems are CEO Scott’s fault, there will come a point where the company may need new leadership, new energy, and a new face at the top.