Another booming quarter for Walmart, but sales are slowing

FILE - In this Nov. 5, 2020 file photo, a woman pushes a shopping cart to enter a Walmart in Rolling Meadows, Ill. Walmart turned out another stellar quarter as the worlds largest retailer powers through a pandemic that has felled other national chains. The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer delivered a 56% increase in its fiscal third-quarter profits while revenue rose 5.3%. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

NEW YORK – Walmart turned out another stellar quarter as the world’s largest retailer powers through a pandemic that has felled other national chains.

But sales at stores opened at least a year slowed in the three months that ended with October compared with earlier this year as the pandemic gained ground. Americans spent more per trip when they did go to Walmart, but they cut down on the number of visits they made.

The U.S. on Tuesday reported the slowest monthly retail sales since the spring when the pandemic seized up the economy. Shares of Walmart were flat in midday trading despite huge profits.

Sales at Walmart stores opened at least a year— a key barometer for a retailer's health — rose 6.4%. Same-stores sales jumped 9.3% during the second quarter, and 10% in first.

Third-quarter profits surged 56% and net revenue hit $133.75 billion, a 5.3% increase. Both were better that Wall Street had projected. Online sales spiked almost 80% after nearly doubling in the previous quarter.

Despite a sales slowdown before the crucial holiday season, Walmart's expansion into online grocery is widening the gap between it and its rivals. In September it launched a membership program to deliver what people want more than ever in a pandemic as they reduce their public exposure: convenience.

“This was another strong quarter on the top and bottom line," said CEO Doug McMillon. "We think these new customer behaviors will largely persist, and we’re well positioned to serve customers."

McMillon told analysts during a Tuesday conference call that the company is already seeing shoppers stockpile items as the virus cases surge, but it's more localized. He believes the discounter will be better at responding than during the spring. But he acknowledged that Walmart continues to struggle keeping up with demand for paper goods and cleaning supplies.