* Wal-Mart U.S. CEO says customers worry about finances
* Wal-Mart says paycheck cycle intensifying
* Wal-Mart shares close down 1.4 percent
(Adds details on credit trends, comment on holiday, byline)
By Lisa Baertlein
LOS ANGELES, Oct 21 Wal-Mart Stores Inc's
(WMT.N) U.S. customers, increasingly worried about their own
financial security, are waiting until they get their paychecks
to buy even the most basic necessities, the retailer's U.S.
division head said on Tuesday.
Personal financial security, a recent poll revealed, was
the No 1 concern for 80 percent of Wal-Mart shoppers, up from
65 percent a few months ago, said Eduardo Castro-Wright,
president and chief executive of the Wal-Mart's U.S.
And, in a "disturbing" trend, Castro-Wright said Wal-Mart
for the first time is seeing a paycheck-related spike in sales
of baby formula, suggesting consumers are rushing to buy such
necessities as soon as they have the cash.
"Most consumers are worried about: 'Will I have enough to
put food on the table so my family can eat?" he told attendees
of a luncheon sponsored by Town Hall Los Angeles.
He said credit used as a form of payment at Wal-Mart is
falling and that the decline is expected to reach into the
double digits this year.
U.S. consumers have been cutting spending for months due to
falling home values, job losses, higher prices for basics like
food and fuel, and a global credit crisis.
Castro-Wright signaled earlier this year that easy access
to credit was disappearing and forcing consumers to make
changes in their purchasing habits.
On Tuesday he said that many consumers have "maxed out.
Credit card limits don't allow them to use credit."
Castro-Wright declined to comment about the general
economy. When asked about the holidays, he said: "Christmas is
going to come .... consumers are just going to be more
As the economy worsens, Wal-Mart's customers have
increasingly shown signs of living paycheck to paycheck.
Wal-Mart's sales typically surge around pay periods at the
beginning and middle of the month. Castro-Wright said that
spike has become more pronounced as consumers' budgets become
In the last few months, the percentage of overall sales
from the days surrounding those pay periods has risen 250 basis
points, he said.
Shares in Wal-Mart closed down 1.4 percent to $53.67, off
their year-high of $63.40 in September.
(Reporting by Lisa Baertlein; editing by Gunna Dickson)