In the retail universe, there are retailers and then there is Walmart. Normal rules do not apply to this US colossus, whose annual revenues of over $500bn are roughly equal to those of the next four global retail groups combined. With Walmart, all the numbers are big. The company is the world's largest non-governmental employer, with around 2.3m associates. Approximately 260m people visit Walmart's stores every week, and 78% of American households shop there at least once a year. But America is by no means the only market to experience the Walmart effect. The group is also a force in the international arena with operations in 27 other countries in Latin America, Europe and Asia. Yet the business is only a little over 50 years old, and virtually all its extraordinary growth in the US since the first Walmart store opened in 1962 has been generated organically, rather than as a result of acquisition.
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Adbrands Weekly Update 5th Apr 2018: Walmart has identified one potential new path for growth in the US, and it's healthcare. The group opened preliminary talks to acquire health insurer Humana in what would be its biggest ever deal if it comes off. The price tag is likely to be somewhere close to $50bn, more than four times what Walmart paid for UK supermarket chain Asda in 1999, currently its biggest deal to-date. Even for Walmart - with mammoth sales of over $500bn a year - that's a substantial sum. The company has comparatively little cash on hand so might need to dilute the Walton family's controlling 54% stake via an all-stock deal. Humana is America's second-biggest provider of private Medicare Advantage plans, seen as the industry's biggest growth curve, and it also has a substantial pharmacy benefits unit, which negotiates drug pricing. This would mesh with Walmart's massive existing pharmacy business - almost all of its 4,700 US outlets contain a pharmacy counter.
Adbrands Weekly Update 8th Mar 2018: Ads of the Week "The Box: Nancy Meyers". For this year's Oscars, Walmart and agency Saatchi & Saatchi reprised the concept of getting three name directors to conceive a short film based on a single everyday object. Last year it was a Walmart till receipt; this year it's a Walmart delivery box. Also, in a nod to the changing times, all three directors were women. Actress Melissa McCarthy and Mudbound director Dee Rees turned in great work; better frankly than any of last year's all-male contenders. However, the best - and certainly the most fitting for inclusion within the Oscars telecast - was this excellent tale from Nancy Meyers (best-known for grown-up romcoms like It's Complicated and Something's Gotta Give). She chose to celebrate the theme of inspiration in general, and specifically, that embodied in famed movie composer Hans Zimmer.
Adbrands Weekly Update 22nd Feb 2018: Walmart's annual results were dented by missteps within its ecommerce division over the holiday period, an error investors quickly punished with a sharp markdown of the retail giant's share price. The company over-anticipated demand for items like toys and TVs, and reconfigured warehouse space accordingly. As a result, it ran out of stock on everyday items like toilet paper. After three quarters in which online sales grew by at least 50% per quarter, growth in 4Q was just 23% (compared to 40% at Amazon). One notable achievement, though, was that Walmart's total annual sales topped $500bn for the first time, up 3% year-on-year. In the US, same-store comps excluding fuel rose 2% for the year. However profits were dented by increases in costs and expenses, and a whole collection of impairments and restructuring charges against Sam's Club and international operations. Even with a one-off tax benefit in the final quarter, net income slumped 28% for the year to $9.9bn, the first time since 2004 - when revenues were half their current level - it has fallen below $10bn.
Adbrands Weekly Update 25th Jan 2018: Judith McKenna was named as the new CEO of Walmart's international division, taking over from her former Asda colleague and fellow Briton David Cheesewright, who is taking early retirement from a fulltime role, but will stay with the group to work on special projects.
Adbrands Weekly Update 23rd November 2017: Game isn't over just yet for traditional bricks and mortar retail. With Black Friday looming tomorrow, Walmart threw down a gauntlet to Amazon by reporting an impressive set of results for the quarter to October. Most notable of all was the retail giant's strongest US growth for almost a decade. US same-store sales ex fuel were up 2.7%, Walmart's 13th straight quarterly gain, and the highest since 2009. In another challenge to Amazon, online sales jumped by 50% year on year, and are expected to hit $17.5bn for the year. That's still well below Amazon, but the growth is significant, pushing up Walmart's stock to an all-time high, just below $100 per share.
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