February 18, 2021
Walmart Feb. 18 reported record revenue of $152.1 billion for the fourth quarter (ended Jan. 31). That was up 7.3%, or $10.4 billion, from the previous-year period. Same-store sales increased 8.6%. For the fiscal year, revenue increased 6.7% to $559.2 billion, an increase of $35.2 billion. Online sales exploded 69% in the quarter and 79% for the fiscal year.
The world’s largest retailer saw strong sales performance in categories related to customer comfort, leisure and recreation, including home, consumer electronics, sporting goods, toys, and outdoor living. Walmart attributed the surge in part to federal government-driven COVID-19 stimulus spending, which benefited January sales.
“Our associates responded unbelievably to serve customers in one of the most challenging times we’ve faced,” CFO Brett Biggs said in a statement. “We accomplished this while accelerating our long-term strategy of transforming Walmart into a dynamic omnichannel business. It’s now time to accelerate even more.”
CEO Doug McMillon said some of that acceleration includes raising average wages toward $15 per hour for an additional 425,000 frontline workers after raising wages for 165,000 associates last fall. The chain is set to raise some position’s hourly wage to $13 to $19 on March 13. Walmart’s current average minimum wage remains at $11 hourly, while rivals Amazon and Target increased their starting hourly wage to $15.
Walmart, the country’s largest private employer with around 1.5 million personnel, has been long criticized for not raising its minimum wage for store workers. Three years ago the chain reacted, upping its hourly starting pay to $11 from from the federal minimum of $7.25.
Increased employee costs and cautious 2021 projections resulted in a pre-market stock value decline, which then bumped up slightly in early trading.
“We completed a strong year and a strong Q4 thanks to our amazing associates,” McMillon said. “They stepped up to serve our customers and members exceptionally well during a busy holiday period in the midst of a pandemic.”
Last September Walmart launched “Walmart Plus,” a $98 annual subscription program aimed at competing with the Amazon Prime membership. Unlike Prime, Walmart’s membership service does not include streaming video after the chain sold its Vudu subsidiary.
“This is a time to be even more aggressive because of the opportunity we see in front of us,” McMillon said. “The strategy, team and capabilities are in place. We have momentum with customers, and our financial position is strong.”