Wal-Mart Shares Slip Toward 52-Week Low

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Whether it is due to disputes with workers or slow store traffic, shares of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) have crept toward their 52-week low. The move is unusually dispiriting for shareholders in a market that continues to make new highs.

Wal-Mart’s shares recently sold at $72, against a 52-week high of $90.97. In fact, the current price is close to the stock’s two-year low as well.

Among the reasons for the drop is that Wal-Mart has saturated its markets, both brick-and-mortar and online. Smaller retailers such as Target Corp. (NYSE: TGT) and Costco Wholesale Corp. (NASDAQ: COST) have priced their goods and services low enough to pull market share away from the country’s largest retailer. Online, Walmart has barely made a dent in Amazon.com Inc.’s (NASDAQ: AMZN) dominant position.

The numbers support the concern, but they also show what new CEO Doug McMillon faces and why he may fail to turn the company around. Revenue in the most recent quarter fell 0.1% to $114 billion. Consolidated net income fell by 7% to $3.3 billion. Same-store sales did inch up in the United States by 1%, but the market was not impressed.

It is impossible to believe that Amazon’s sales could even match Wal-Mart’s in the United States, which was $70.3 billion. Amazon’s revenue is growing at 20% per quarter, however, and reached $23.2 billion last quarter. That is impressive for a company that has virtually no physical stores. Amazon’s shares are not far from their all-time high.

The question has become not whether Wal-Mart can do better now, but whether it can do better in the next few years. If investor sentiment is a barometer of things to come, the answer is no. Sam Walton’s dream of creating the largest and most successful retailer in America is over.

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