Following the US sales report in December 2018, fears have reignited that another recession may be on its way.
With sales totalling $505.8bn (£387bn) in December, this shows a 1.2 per cent fall from November and represents the biggest drop in a decade; however, the world’s biggest retailer, Walmart, seemed unaffected and reported a rise in sales for 2018.
With shares rising by five per cent in the premarket and online sales rising by 43 per cent, Walmart has outperformed the US market for 2018. Questions arise as to whether this is due to the company’s targeting of toy sales following the closure of retailer Toys R Us and a revamped web presence rather than a macro story.
An online market
With the ever-increasing market of online shoppers, now is definitely the time for retailers to be turning their attention to their online presence. Walmart has certainly done this with its newly-upgraded website and its vastly improved digital signage.
In 2010, former Walmart vice-president Michael Hiatt talked about ‘the dawn of dynamic retail’, including a plan to implement more sophisticated digital signage and targeted ads that would change depending on factors such as the weather and seasonal festivities. Although Walmart has received some criticism for faulty signage on its website, it seems this plan is coming to fruition, as its sales keep rising despite a fall in the wider US economy.
The goals outlined by Mr Hiatt in the 2010 speech included features to help clients to shop smarter in a short time frame, with popular, relevant items taking centre stage and rotating throughout the year to help shoppers find the things they need.
By helping shoppers to find the things they need swiftly, encouraging interaction and telling a media-rich brand story in a way similar to digital signage solutions found at Moodmedia and other providers, Walmart has been able to provide a great perception of its brand personality and encourage spending without needing to drop prices too low.
The other side
Although Walmart reported a rise in customer spending, some have suggested higher prices rather than increased foot traffic may have driven this. There are also suggestions that timing played a part in the success, with aspects such as government food stamp payments boosting some store purchases by 0.4 per cent.