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Simon says Walmart U.S. is on the right track

Driving same-store sales at U.S. stores is the top priority of Walmart U.S. president and CEO Bill Simon and his boss, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., president and CEO Mike Duke. Both executives stated U.S. comp growth is their top priority on Friday and went on to add that they are confident the company has the right strategy and people in place to make it happen.

Simon said his confidence stems from the fact that the company is already seeing improvement in two thirds of its U.S. business (food and consumables), where corrective actions have been taken to restore product inventories and assortments to pre-Project Impact levels.

“Our results in food and consumables are really quite good,” Simon said. “They are not where we want them to be or where they will be, but I can assure you the entire U.S. team is working on growing same-store sales.

He noted that food and consumables was the easiest piece of the business to fix because products are sourced domestically. On the general merchandise side it is taking longer for results to improve due to longer lead times. However, he is encouraged by progress in areas such as fishing where restored product assortment generated strong sales growth.

“We have more work to do and it will take time, but we are headed in the right direction,” Simon said.

Walmart is controlling what it can to restore sales growth to its U.S. business, but Simon did point out that such economic indicators as housing, jobs and consumer confidence are headed in the wrong direction and any further increase in gas prices would be detrimental to sales.

“It doesn’t change what we need to do,” Simon said.

However, it would likely change the timeframe in which same-store sales turn positive.

Simon said the company is hoping for the best and preparing for the worst as the significant correlation between gas prices and customer traffic at its stores is well documented.

“When one goes up, the other goes down,” Simon said. “That’s why trust is so important. If we provide enough value customers will come no matter what the gas price is.”

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