BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Wal-Mart Stores here last week said net profits during the fiscal fourth quarter improved by 8.6%, helped by lower than expected tax rates and modest gains in holiday sales.
Overall sales for the quarter, which ended Jan. 27, improved 3.9% to $127.1 billion. In the U.S., sales during the quarter improved by 2.6% to $74.7 billion, with comparable-store sales up by 1%.
Bill Simon, chief executive officer of Walmart U.S., said comps in the current first quarter would likely be flat as the stores felt the effect of a slower pace of tax refunds early in the quarter. The company said overall sales for the year would likely fall in the lower end of its 5% to 7% range announced in October “given the soft economic environment.”
Simon said grocery generated low single-digit comps during the quarter, highlighted by positive comps in meat and produce. Neighborhood Market stores produced mid-single-digit comps and positive traffic for the fiscal year, while the Walmart Express small stores open for more than a year are delivering double-digit positive comps, Simon said.
The company has plans to open 100 new small stores in fiscal 2014, up from 76 last year.
For the 52-week fiscal year, sales improved 5% to 466.1 billion and net earnings of $15.7 billion improved by 8.3%.
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