When Walmart Inc. (NYSE: WMT) reported second-quarter results Thursday morning, the company’s stock soared 10%. In guidance for the last half of its 2019 fiscal year, Walmart reaffirmed a previous forecast that U.S. e-commerce sales would increase by approximately 40% year over year. Walmart did not provide the number that would rise by 40%.
U.S. e-commerce sales in the second fiscal quarter were up about 100 basis points (1%), a year-over-year improvement of approximately 30 basis points (0.3%). Still no number.
In the company’s annual report for fiscal year 2018, Walmart’s U.S. segment reported full-year net sales of $318.5 billion that included sales from its supercenters, discount stores, neighborhood markets, and “walmart.com and other eCommerce brands.” E-commerce boosted same-store sales for the year by 0.7% compared with the prior year. Still no number.
We couldn’t find a number for e-commerce sales, either in Walmart’s 2018 annual report or in its 2019 second-quarter earnings report.
The good news is that a reputable retail research firm has stuck its neck out and estimated Walmart’s e-commerce sales numbers. According to eMarketer estimates, Walmart’s worldwide e-commerce sales rose 23.1% last year from 2017’s total of $15.32 billion to $18.85 billion. As a percentage of Walmart’s total revenues, e-commerce sales rose 3.8% year over year in fiscal 2018.
Using Walmart’s own estimated fiscal 2019 growth estimate of 40%, the current year should see total e-commerce sales of $26.39 billion. Consensus analyst estimates for 2019 revenue are currently $514.32 billion. That means e-commerce sales would account for 5.13% of net sales for the whole year.
Over the past 12 months, eMarketer estimates Walmart’s e-commerce sales account for 4.0% of the company’s total net sales and are up 23.3% compared to the same period a year ago.
If eMarketer’s estimates are close, Walmart is going to have to post a growth spurt in the second half of the year. The spurt will not include any revenue from the company’s recent $16 billion investment in India’s Flipkart.
Amazon’s 2017 revenues totaled just under $178 billion, more than nine times Walmart’s estimated e-commerce total. Assuming Amazon’s revenue grows by 30% again this year, its total revenue would come in around $231 billion and Walmart may have gained as much as a percentage point on Amazon, but it still trails by a factor of well over eight.
But Walmart is determined. In the United States last year the company spent about 85% of its capex budget on e-commerce and other infrastructure areas like supply chain. Globally Walmart spent just over $10 billion on capital investment last year, with $4.5 billion going into U.S. e-commerce, technology, supply chain and other. For the current fiscal year, global capex is forecast at approximately $11 billion.
Growing e-commerce sales is neither easy nor cheap, but Walmart seems determined to stay on the course it charted out about three years ago. Now if it would only give us a few solid numbers.
Walmart stock traded down about 0.3% at $98.32 early Friday afternoon. The stock’s 52-week range is $77.50 to $109.98, and the consensus price target is $99.44.