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Monday, October 30, 2006

Wal Mart Moves Toward Negative Growth (WMT)(TGT)

Someone came up with the term “negative growth” because the word “shrinking” seemed to mundane. No matter. Wal-Mart is very close to shrinking and negative growth here in its home market. After saying it might grow 2% to 4%, then recently revising that to 1.3%, Wal-Mart could only muster a .5% same-stores sales figure. For all we know that could be revised downward as it was in another recent month.

Despite revamped stores and discounting holiday goods, Wal-Mart may be reaching the end of it growth phase in the US. It may simply have too many stores, too much market share, and too much competition from other large retailers like Target. There are, of course, large online retailers like Amazon who did not even exist a decade ago.

According to the company's 10-Q, in its last full quarter Wal-Mart’s international sales grew from $14.2 billion last year to $18.6 billion, about 32% compared to 6% in the US. Operating income for the unit grew from $799 million to $977 million. Wal-Mart US stores had operating income of over $4 billion, so international has a ways to go to catch up. But, it will have to try.

Since Wal-Mart has exited the South Korean and German markets, overseas growth may be a lot tougher.

But, no matter. The “negative growth” may be starting for the huge retailer’s US operations.

Douglas A. McIntyre can be reached at He does not own securities in companies that he writes about.

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