Wal-Mart saves US retail sales

11 May 2009

BENTONVILLE: Supermarket giant Wal-Mart, the world's biggest retailer, saw its US sales rise by 5% in April, prompting a rise of 1.2% in overall US retail sales. Without Wal-Mart, US retail sales would have dropped 2.7%.

It's hardly surprising that the company therefore announced last week that it would switch from reporting sales monthly to quarterly. The company is now so big that a monthly blip in its sales would lead analysts and politicians to assume that the whole country was heading for a further crisis.

But it things are looking reasonably sunny at Wal-Mart's end of the street, they're looking anything but that in the uptown locations enjoyed by upscale retailers.

In April, Saks reported a further monthly drop in sales, this time of a vertiginous 32% year-on-year, while rival Abercrombie & Fitch reported a 22% fall. This was a small improvement on March, however, when Abercrombie's figure was 34%.

Elsewhere, Gap improved with a sales fall of just 4% in April (its sales fell 23% in January) while American Eagle was off 5% in April (compared to 22% in January).

Overall, apparel sales (of which Wal-Mart accounts for a hefty chunk) fell by 15% in April showing that people are still putting off what they see as non-essential purchases. This dip, hwoever, was an improvement on March when year-on-year figures dropped by 23%.


Data sourced from New York Times; additional content by WARC staff