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Wal-Mart has hopes for home in 1Q; exceeds 4Q expectations

Bentonville, Ark. – Wal-Mart Stores U.S. hinted of good things soon to come for the home area as the company “works hard on improvements,” said the division’s president and ceo Eduardo Castro-Wright during the retailer’s fourth-quarter and year-end earnings call this morning.

“You will hear more from us on this category later in the first quarter,” Castro-Wright added. He offered no further details, but could have been referring to the scheduled spring launch of the Canopy, a casual private label brand covering bedding, bath, table linens, rugs, dinnerware, furniture and lighting.

Wal-Mart Stores U.S. completed a remodel of its home area last year during the third quarter, and thus far it “has shown great promise,” Castro-Wright said.

The company is expanding that presentation to additional units in 2008. “Our goal is to see improved sales in the home category by the second half of fiscal 2009,” he added.

For the recently completed quarter, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. posted positive results. Earnings per share rose 7.0% to $1.04 – excluding one-time items – two cents ahead of analysts’ estimates. The company took a 2 cent charge in after-tax expenses, for a diluted EPS of $1.02.

Sales for the quarter ended Jan. 31 rose 8.3% to $106 billion – topping $100 billion for the first time in a single quarter. Comps, excluding fuel, rose 1.7%.

Wal-Mart’s U.S. stores reported a 5% sales increase to $67.4 billion, and Sam’s Club sales jumped 6.3% to $11.8 billion.

After apologizing for his slightly gruff voice incurred from the flu, Wal-Mart president and ceo Lee Scott boasted “another record year” for Wal-Mart.

For the year, Wal-Mart posted an 8.6% increase in total net sales to $375 billion for fiscal 2008.

“We added approx $30 billion in sales,” Scott said. “$30 billion is equivalent to a Fortune 75 business.”

Diluted earnings per share for the year were $3.16, up 8.2%.

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