Wal-Mart’s Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) has staggered over the past few years as e-commerce has eroded some of its presence as the largest retail company in America. However, from the time of its initial public offering in 1969 through the present, its shares are up 120,000%.
Wal-Mart, founded by Sam Walton in 1950, had a small number of stores in 1969. Even as the company grew, Walton visited each store every year. Today, Wal-Mart’s store count in the United States is over 5,000 stores and clubs, according to the Wal-Mart. It employs 1.5 million people in the United States. Its global sales are just above $485 billion.
One sign of Wal-Mart’s struggles is that its share price is only up 21% in the past five years, while the S&P 500 is higher by 84% over the same period. The company’s revenue growth has slowed significantly, from $469 billion in fiscal 2013 to the $485 billion in fiscal 2017.
Most analysts believe the company that has siphoned off most of Wal-Mart’s growth potential is Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN). The case is fair, as is the one that many other retailers have been hurt worse. Amazon’s e-commerce operation had revenue of $80 billion last year. The number likely will top $100 billion for full year 2017. Wal-Mart has been able to weather the change better than most. The rotation of the industry to e-commerce has ruined companies like Macy’s and J.C. Penney.
Unlike smaller brick-and-mortar retailers, Wal-Mart has the capacity to expand via mergers and acquisitions. It bought large e-commerce retailer Jet.com for $3.3 billion in stock and cash in August 2016. More recently, it bought outdoor online retailer Moosejaw and footwear e-commerce company Shoebuy. The weakness of the Wal-Mart moves is that none, even Jet, is large enough to make a dent in the gap with Amazon, even when it combines with Walmart.com, which is generally considered the second largest e-commerce operation in America.
Wal-Mart announces earnings this week. If it grows by even 2% it will be considered a victory. The very modest advance is a long way off from the rocket-like growth that took its shares up 120,000% over the past six decades.