(Adds analysts' estimate, adds closing share price)
Feb 15 Shares of Wal-Mart Stores Inc
fell 2.1 percent on Friday after Bloomberg quoted a mid-level
executive's email as saying the world's largest retailer had the
worst sales start to any month in seven years in February.
Wal-Mart executives blamed the poor sales performance on
increased payroll taxes as well as delayed tax returns,
Higher payroll taxes this year are seen as a potential
problem for Wal-Mart and other discount retailers that try to
attract lower-income customers who have less disposable income.
"In case you haven't seen a sales report these days,
February (month-to-date) sales are a total disaster," Jerry
Murray, a Wal-Mart vice president who works on finance in the
U.S. logistics division, said in a Feb. 12 email to other
executives, Bloomberg reported. "The worst start to a month I
have seen in my (about) 7 years with the company."
The weak February sales start came after a disappointing
January, according to an email from Cameron Geiger, senior vice
president of Wal-Mart U.S. Replenishment. Geiger's email was
also quoted by Bloomberg. The replenishment department works on
moving products from distribution centers to stores.
"Have you ever had one of those weeks where your best-
prepared plans weren't good enough to accomplish everything you
set out to do?" Geiger asked in a Feb. 1 email to company
executives. "Well, we just had one of those weeks here at
Walmart U.S. Where are all the customers? And where's their
Wal-Mart is scheduled to report fourth-quarter earnings on
Thursday and has not pre-reported any sales figures.
Analysts on average expect fourth-quarter sales at Walmart
U.S. discount stores open at least a year to rise 1.7 percent,
excluding gasoline sales, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Asked for a comment on the Bloomberg report, Wal-Mart
spokesman David Tovar said in a statement: "As with any
organization, we often see internal communications that are not
entirely accurate, that lack the proper context and represent
Wal-Mart shares closed down 2.1 percent at $69.30 on the New
York Stock Exchange on Friday.
(Reporting by Brad Dorfman in Chicago and Lisa Baertlein in Los
Angeles; editing by John Wallace and Matthew Lewis)