Walmart plows forward in Q2
BENTONVILLE, Ark. — A fourth consecutive quarter of same-store sales growth at Walmart’s U.S. business helped the company achieve a slightly better than expected profit performance.
Walmart said second-quarter earnings grew 8.3% to $1.18 per share, one cent better than the consensus estimate of analysts and at the top of the company’s forecast range of $1.13 to $1.18 per share. Total company sales increased 4.5% to $113.5 billion, and net income increased 5.7% to slightly more than $4 billion. The key driver of the improved performance was continued strength of the Walmart U.S. business, where same-store sales increased 2.2% within the company’s guidance range that called for an increase of 1% to 3%.
"I’m really pleased with the continued momentum we see in our Walmart U.S. stores, and this now marks three consecutive quarters of positive comp traffic and four quarters of positive comp sales," Wal-Mart Stores president and CEO Mike Duke said. "There’s such a clear focus among the leadership team to drive the strategy of broad assortment and price leadership. We continue to win back customers and attract new ones. We will not let up on our passion to reduce operating expenses so that we can invest in lower prices. This is the promise that our customers expect from Walmart and what drives greater loyalty."
Sales at U.S. stores grew 3.8% to $67.4 billion, while operating profits increased 5.3% to $5.25 billion.
"Customers are responding to our continued focus on providing the right assortment at everyday low prices," Walmart U.S. president and CEO Bill Simon said. "During the quarter, our average comp traffic increase was equal to serving on average, 80,000 additional customers every day of the 13-week period."
At Sam’s Club, sales increased 3.8% to $14.2 billion and same-store sales, excluding fuel, increased 4.2%, on top of a prior-year increase of 5%. Operating profits grew at a much faster pace, advancing 10.1% to $536 million.
"We believe that the improvements in our quality and overall merchandise offerings are key to driving these results," Sam’s Club president and CEO Rosalind Brewer said. "In fact, member engagement scores continue to achieve record levels. We’re also investing in price to deliver greater value on top of these quality improvements."
Buoyed by a solid second-quarter showing, Walmart increased by a penny and narrowed its full year profit forecast to a range of $4.83 to $4.93 per share from a prior range of $4.72 to $4.92 per share.
Study: Many consumers turn to at-home options for whiter teeth versus the dentist chair
CHICAGO — There’s good news for retailers and manufacturers of at-home teeth whitening solutions, as new research indicates that most consumers seeking a brighter smile will tend to opt for at-home options compared with professional whitening services.
According to new research from Mintel, only 10% of those looking for whiter teeth took a seat in the dentist chair for a professional whitening service.
Slightly more than 4-out-of-10 respondents (41%) have tried to whiten their teeth in the last 12 months using toothpaste, while 17% have given it a whirl with at-home mouthwash and 15% with at-home whitening strips.
“Some of the key growth drivers in the oral care market include an increased interest in whitening capabilities and products that deliver multiple benefits,” stated Gabriela Mendieta, home and personal care analyst at Mintel. “Also, many consumers are becoming more aware of how oral care affects their general health, and marketers can use this opportunity to push products that not only help with teeth and gums, but also one’s overall well-being.”
The majority of people (73%) are looking for toothpaste that prevents cavities, while some 70% of Americans look for toothpaste that boasts tartar control. A product that promises whiter teeth is the third most popular attribute with 66% of people, followed by 56% who are looking for a product to strengthen their enamel.
“The list goes on and on. … Whether it’s gum disease, tooth sensitivity or dry mouth, there is a toothpaste or mouthwash product out there for you,” Mendieta said. “Oral care products that feature multiple attributes are expected to do well with consumers in the coming years, as it is more cost-effective to buy one product that helps with several needs.”
The relation between oral health and general health may be a selling point for marketers to drive sales and encourage users to widen their oral care repertoires and regimens. In fact, the floss/accessories/tools segment increased by more than 2.8% in sales from 2010 to 2011, more than any other oral care segment, according to Mintel. The research suggests that this could grow further if marketers create ads that highlight the link between oral bacteria and the potential for risk in other areas of the body.
Study: Older patients, preventive services on rise at retail health clinics
NEW YORK — Retail-based health clinics are attracting more older patients and delivering more preventive care, particularly flu shots and other vaccinations, according to a new study from the Rand Corp.
Researchers found that visits to retail medical clinics increased four-fold from 2007 to 2009, with the proportion of patients older than 65 years old growing from 8% to 19% of all visits during this period.
More than 44% of visits to the clinics occurred on the weekend or other hours when physician offices typically are closed, suggesting retail clinics meet a need for convenient care, according to the study published online as a "Web first" by the journal Health Affairs.
"Retail medical clinics continue to grow rapidly and attract new segments of users," said lead author Ateev Mehrotra, an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and a researcher at Rand, a nonprofit research organization. "They remain just a small part of outpatient medical care, but appear to have tapped into patients’ needs."
While retail clinics have begun promoting such new services as caring for chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, researchers stated that it remains uncertain whether demand for the clinics will continue to grow as the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is enacted.
"If demand for primary medical care drives longer wait times to see a doctor as it has following healthcare reform in Massachusetts, then this could drive greater demand for convenient alternatives, such as retail clinics," Mehrotra stated.
Researchers examined the latest trends in the use of retail medical clinics by analyzing information from 2007 through 2009 obtained from the three largest retail clinic operators, which account for 81% of the clinics operated nationally. Trends in usage were compared with earlier findings from 2000 to 2006.
Visits to retail clinics reached 5.97 million in 2009, up from 1.48 million in 2007. Visits to retail medical clinics for vaccinations increased sharply from 2007 to 2009, researchers found. Another recent study published by Rand researchers found that vaccination visits to the three major retail clinic chains quadrupled to more than 1.9 million in 2009. Most of the inoculations given were for influenza.
"The number of vaccinations provided at retail clinics could grow even larger if providers started counseling patients about the need for inoculations when they visit the clinics for other care," added Lori Uscher-Pines, an associate policy researcher at Rand.
In the latest study, researchers found that the proportion of retail clinics visits made for acute medical problems dropped from 78% to 51%. There was a corresponding increase in visits for preventive care, making up more than 47% of visits by 2009. The study does not capture the impact of a push made by retail medical clinic operators beginning in 2010 to increase the services offered for chronic illnesses.
The proportion of patients who reported that they did not have a primary care physician remained at more than 60%, although researchers had expected the number to drop as use of the clinics increased. Researchers stated it is possible that patients with no or weak relationships with a primary care physician are more likely to seek care at a retail clinic than patients with strong relationships with a physician.
Support for the studies was provided by the California HealthCare Foundation, a nonprofit philanthropy based in Oakland, Calif. Other authors of the studies are Judith Lave, Katherine Harris and Rachel Burns.