As if we needed another confirmation that the US consumer is running on empty, here comes Bloomberg with valuable disclosure from an internal, and supposedly confidential, Wal-Mart memo on store traffic patterns which indicate that in US store locations open for at least a year have seen a 2.6% drop in traffic in the February to June period compared to a year earlier. While this may not sound huge, keep in mind the company is massively leveraged to even the smallest marginal moves in traffic, courtesy of already razor thin margins. Specificall, the Wal-Mart stores in question had "82.8 million fewer visits through the first five months of the company’s fiscal year." More than anything this is an indication of just how exhausted the US consumer is becoming if even the most beloved, widespread and cheapest option for purchases is now being shunned outright. Bloomberg continues: "Wal-Mart’s plan to recapture customers by returning thousands of products to U.S. store shelves has failed to reverse a decline in foot traffic at the world’s largest retailer, said Jeff Stinson, an analyst at Cleveland Research Co. That’s primarily because Wal-Mart’s core low-income customers are shopping less and going to other retailers more often, according to two recent shopper surveys." This should not come as a surprise to anyone, since frequent Zero Hedge readers will recall the post in which the CEO of Wal Mart America said that "shoppers are running out of money"; and there is no sign of a recovery." When it comes to marginal traffic, it appears shoppers have just run out of money. And that includes those who no longer pay their mortgage and pay for everything with their now well maxed out credit cards.
Wal-Mart, led by Chief Executive Officer Mike Duke, is restoring an average of 8,500 products to its stores to lure back shoppers still pinched by persistent unemployment and gas prices that have risen 36 percent in the past year. Sales in U.S. Wal-Mart stores open at least 12 months have declined for eight straight quarters.
Wal-Mart’s traffic decline comes as some of its direct competitors are getting more visits.
Wal-Mart’s decline is close to the 2.5 percent drop in shopper traffic at all retailers from February through June, according to retail industry data provider ShopperTrak in Chicago.
The two shopper surveys, from Morgan Stanley and retail consultancy WSL Strategic Retail, found that the removal of items from stores in 2009 to reduce clutter wasn’t among the top reasons why shoppers are visiting Wal-Mart less frequently.
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