US goes online for pandemic supplies, many at Walmart.com

Walmart delivered strong profits and sales that beat Wall Street expectations for its fiscal second quarter helped by shoppers focused on buying food and other items as they stay close to home during the pandemic

NEW YORK —
Americans established trusted supply lines as the virus surged in new regions of the U.S. over the past few months and millions did so at Walmart, where online sales surged 97% in the second quarter.

They shopped in Walmart’s stores, too, and sales at locations opened at least a year jumped 9.3%, the company reported Tuesday.

Walmart topped almost all expectations by wide margins and company shares, which hit an all-time high Monday, jumped another 6% before the opening bell.

Consumers had already begun to establish supply channels during the first three months of the year, sending Walmart’s online sales up 74%. That trend accelerated in the second quarter and broadened the gap between traditional retailers, many of them anchor stores at the mall, and big box operators like Walmart and Target.

With unemployment in the U.S. hitting frighteningly high levels, Walmart’s ability to deliver low-priced food, clothing and electronics strengthened its structural advantages further.

Net income for Walmart Inc. reached $6.48 billion in the quarter, or $2.27 per share. Earnings, adjusted for one-time gains and costs, were $1.56 per share, easily outpacing Wall Street projections of $1.22, according to a survey by Zacks Investment Research.

The world’s largest retailer posted revenue of $137.74 billion, also exceeding expectations.

However, surging sales took place as the U.S. rolled out massive assistance plans for the millions who had lost jobs or who were furloughed.

The $600-a-week federal unemployment check that had been sent to roughly 28 million laid-off workers is gone. And a $1,200 stimulus check that was sent to many Americans in April and May appears to be a thing of the past. Negotiations in Congress on a new economic relief package have collapsed and there is no evidence of an agreement on more aid, at least in the near future.

That had been a concern for analysts trying to predict how that will influence where Americans shop.

On Tuesday, however, the focus was on Walmart’s massive quarter.

Shares that had hit an all-time high Tuesday rose another 2% before the opening bell,