Wal-Mart exceeds December comp guidance

BENTONVILLE, Ark. Wal-Mart citied strength in its pharmacy business, along with grocery and electronics as key drivers of a 2.6 percent increase in December same store sales.

That figure was at the upper end of company guidance of 1 percent to 3 percent increase, and exceeded analysts’ estimates of 1.8 percent.

Total sales for the Wal-Mart’s U.S. stores division increased 5.6 percent to $29.7 billion during the five-week December reporting period ended January 4. Although pharmacy was mentioned as an import component of the increase, further explanation about the results focused on food, seasonal categories and operational improvements.

“Wal-Mart’s food performance was very strong, which helped drive traffic to other areas of the stores,” said Eduardo Castro-Wright, president and ceo of Wal-Mart Stores U.S. “Our price leadership position was clear very early in the holiday season and customers responded throughout the period to our pricing and merchandise offerings which were support by well-integrated advertising and in-store communication.”

Faster, friendlier checkouts and an overall improvement to the in-store experience also contributed to the results, according to Castro-Wright.

Although he didn’t mention the company’s $4 generic drug program which now includes 360 products, the initiative was heralded throughout the year and used by Wal-Mart in customer communications to drive the perception of price leadership. The program was also an element of the well-integrated advertising and in-store communications referenced by Castro-Wright.

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