Walmart: Weak US Economy Hurting Consumers

Wednesday, 17 Aug 2011 07:20 AM

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The weak U.S. economy is putting pressure on consumers at Walmart, especially lower-income shoppers, company executives say.

The retail giant, whose sales are so large that they serve as a barometer for U.S. consumer sentiment, says it is growing concerned.

"We remain concerned about the economic pressure on our customers and the uncertain impact it can have on their shopping behavior," says Bill Simon, chief executive of Walmart's U.S. division, according to the Financial Times.

"With this volatility, it is as important as ever to deliver on Walmart’s one-stop shopping promise for broad assortment and everyday low prices."

Company CFO Charles Holley says comparable store sales will rise by the end of the year, but warns unemployment is topping high oil prices as the top concern among shoppers.

"They are living paycheck to paycheck," Holley says, according to the Financial Times.

"How long can the nation go forward with such a high unemployment rate?"
Consumer sentiment hit a 30-year low in early August, according to Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment survey.
However, retail sales inched up 0.5 percent in July, the biggest increase since March, after a revised 0.3 percent gain in June, according to the Commerce Department, the New York Times reports.

"People's spending doesn’t always correspond with their mood," says Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Pierpont Securities, according to the Times.

"I doubt things are as weak as the sentiment readings suggest, but no doubt people will be cautious in August."

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