Fighting Falling Same-Store Sales, Walmart Looks To Be Saved By IT

As Walmart (NYSE:WMT) was reporting its first same-store sales drop in seven quarters along with a barely increasing profit on Thursday (May 16), it also detailed its impressive IT and e-commerce growth. Quarterly online sales soared more than 30 percent as the chain kept boosting its number of self-checkout POS units (a 38 percent boost in that quarter alone).

"Customer response (to self-checkout) has been positive, with utilization across the chain up more than 300 basis point years over year," reported Bill Simon, Walmart's senior U.S. executive.

And even while reports continue that Walmart staff cutbacks are slowing down its ability to stock its shelves in a timely manner, Simon spoke of using IT magic to improve efficiency and get those shelves loaded again.

"In the back rooms, projects like MyGuide and OneTouch also enabled improvements in stocker productivity by helping to facilitate the process of moving merchandise from the truck to the shelf and prioritizing work for our associates," Simon said. "In the first quarter, these initiatives contributed to an increase of more than 3 percent cases handled per work hour."

On the mobile front, Walmart said its in-aisle phone checkout program—called Scan & Go—is doing well.

"We’re encouraged by the early results, with the majority of Scan & Go customers using the feature multiple times. The team is constantly making improvements, and we’ll soon be testing digital coupons and gift cards with Scan & Go," Simon said. "We also announced we’ll be testing self-service lockers in select stores this summer. The goal of the program is to reduce the wait time for site-to-store orders, providing customers with an anywhere, anytime pickup solution."

Sam's Club CEO Rosalind Brewer added that Scan & Go will appear in 150 of her club stores by mid-June.

Ship From Store is another program that Simon said was demonstrating its potential. "You’ve heard us talk about the power of our physical footprint and how we plan to utilize our presence across the country as an additional asset in our fulfillment network. We’re pleased with the initial results and are currently shipping certain orders from 35 stores straight to customers’ homes. We expanded the pilot considerably in the first quarter and will continue to expand strategically throughout the rest of the year. Our e-commerce strategy complements a growing real estate portfolio. We’re in a unique position to serve our customers whenever and wherever they want to shop, integrating our capabilities with an expanding presence of supercenters and small formats."

Regarding that more than 30 percent boost in e-commerce sales, CFO Charles Holley focused in particular on global clicks. "From a traffic perspective, we see more than 45 million visitors each month in the U.S. on, where growth and conversion are accelerating. In the U.K., we’re the second largest online grocer, while in Brazil we were just named the number one trafficked e-commerce site. And, you’ve heard us talk about our investment in Yihaodian, one of the fastest growing e-commerce businesses in China."