Walmart (NYSE: WMT) may be the largest company on Earth by revenue, but the giant has a bit of a problem when it comes to its growth. Though it turned in a solid set of numbers for the third quarter -- revenue of almost $125 billion exceeded expectations, and it beat on other metrics, too -- the improvements in its e-commerce channels were weak, especially at a time when Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) seems to be gaining online market share with ease.
In this segment from Motley Fool Money, host Chris Hill and analysts Aaron Bush, Matt Argersinger, and Jason Moser talk about what it would take for Walmart to get back to being a growth story -- and the reasons it isn't one right now. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the retail sector, Home Depot (NYSE: HD) reported earnings, and its comps growth was excellent. However, investors weren't impressed. The guys discuss why.
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A full transcript follows the video.
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This video was recorded on Nov. 16, 2018.
Chris Hill: We begin this week with retail. Walmart's third quarter revenue came in just shy of $125 billion. That was higher than expected. Matty, online sales growth for Walmart looking pretty good, too.
Matt Argersinger: This is, I think, a situation where you have to step back and put everything in context. The numbers were great. Expectations beat the 3.4% U.S. comps growth. Great compared to other retailers we've seen. And, 43% growth in e-commerce sales, fantastic. The problem with Walmart is that if you look at the overall revenue growth of the company in the quarter, 1.4%. Not exactly inspiring, despite the growth that they're seeing online. And then, you look at the share of its U.S. e-commerce -- this is according to eMarketer -- they've got roughly 4% of total retail e-commerce sales now. That's up from 3.3% last year. But Amazon's share this year is 48%, up from 43%.
I hate to say it, but as successful as Walmart has been with what it's doing with the stores and online, it's in this perpetual game of catch-up now. This will speak to other companies we're going to talk about, too -- I think at this point in the economy, where we are, where the consumer is, the strongest in nine years, Walmart was trading for 22X earnings coming into this. It really had to knock the ball cover off the ball. The results were good, it just wasn't fantastic. I think that's why there's a tepid approach to the stock.
Hill: Yeah, you look at the stock, Jason, it's actually down this week. Although, Matty touched on other retailers. Yes, Amazon is always a looming out there. But when you look at Walmart compared to some of the other retailers that have reported lately, if nothing else, Walmart appears to have at least a little bit of momentum going into the holiday quarter. Whereas there are a lot of retailers to just don't.
Jason Moser: I think that's also partly the benefit of being a general retailer. You have a little bit of something for everyone. In Walmart's case, they a lot of stuff for everyone. When you look at those retailers that focus on a bit more of a specific market, something like Williams-Sonoma, for example, good concept, good store, it's a bit more of a specific market, so they're going to be a little bit more beholden to not only maintaining those numbers, but keeping that specific market satisfied with new products. Difficult to maintain pricing there. Walmart, a tremendous focus there.
I want to refer back to something I saw recently in a friend. A friend of ours, Scott Hall, I saw on Twitter, Scott said recently, "Real pricing power is having the ability to lower prices in the face of your competitors." I thought that was actually a very interesting way to look at it. I like that a lot. You see something like Walmart, Amazon, they have the ability, more or less, to do that and force their competitors' hands, typically smaller competitors. You have to really give it to Walmart. That scale does help in the space a lot.
Aaron Bush: I think it's a good point. Technology is deflationary. If you can take advantage of that, then you have another source of pricing power. For Walmart, they have to move online. I know I've said this a couple of times before, but part of what's really difficult is, they're not really getting new customers. They're just trying to retain the same customers by adding much more in cost through building their own online website and tons of acquisitions. They're still in a tough place if they want to become a growth story again, but they've done a good job holding their own.
Argersinger: Now, speaking of the holidays, I will say, the one thing they have going for them this year is the fact that this is the first holiday season we go into without Toys R Us around. In terms of toys, games, things like that, I think Walmart should see a big boost.
Moser: And remember, Target said that they were going to make some pretty big investments in square footage to help soak up a little bit of that space that Toys R Us is leaving behind.
Hill: Home Depot's third quarter report looked great, and the company raised guidance for the full fiscal year. Somehow, Jason, shares of Home Depot were falling this week.
Moser: You're telling me the market wasn't rational, Chris? I mean, come on! Yeah, let's remember, voting versus weighing. We always have to keep that in mind. I think it was a very impressive quarter from Home Depot on a number of fronts. We're talking about comps growth there. Home Depot's comps growth in the 5% range, very impressive. I would encourage investors to not get sucked into the quarterly narrative of concerns over, perhaps, a slowing home improvement market or a slowing housing market. Focus on the bigger-picture data that really sums it all up. We're talking about the fact, for example, that by 2020, 54% of U.S. homes will be greater than 40 years old, versus 51% in 2016. We all know that aging home base means they're going to need to be improved upon, and that's Home Depot's specialty. We talk about online sales, online sales growth at Home Depot was up 28%. They've been able to pass along some product inflation to the consumer, which is nice. Comp average ticket grew 3.5%. They did have a little bit of help from some tough weather a year ago.
But to me, while I think concerns regarding the economy in the near-term are fair, to assign those concerns to Home Depot's business over the longer haul are, of course, a bit short-sighted.
Argersinger: I'll just say, hearing what Jason said about Home Depot, thinking about Walmart, I don't know if you guys feel this, but I feel like there's an underlying attitude right now in the stock market about the economy and where we are in terms of, "Could things get better from here? Could corporate earnings get better? The economy is about as good as it can get." If these companies aren't putting out fantastic numbers, it's worrisome, their underlying trends in the market. I don't know.
Moser: I feel like we're getting to that sentiment. I feel like we're getting to that point, where now, it's like, "Okay, what's your next act?" If you can't wow me, maybe we have to reset this thing a little bit.
Hill: I definitely feel that. Walmart, just because of how big that company is -- as you said, it wasn't a great quarter, but it was very good quarter. Jason, I guess I'm more skeptical than you. I looked at Home Depot's quarter, everything was up. Everything was up! You can get super granular on their quarter. Average ticket, overall transactions. I'm dumbfounded that the stock was down.
Moser: More skeptical on the business or the actual forecast for the market?
Hill: On the wisdom of the market in the short-term.
Moser: I think in the short run, that probably is spot-on. Again, we go back to voting versus weighing. What are you using to approach investing? I would use Apple as another great example of a company where right now, the market is, fairly, voting that there are some questions as to whether they can pivot to being a compelling service business. I think the market fairly is questioning whether Home Depot is not going to witness some harder times here in the near-term. And they very well may. But it's still the same strong business, with a tremendous market opportunity in front. I think if you're looking at it through the context of five years or even longer, this is a compelling business. The market is selling it, I think investors with a longer time horizon need to be looking at this one.
John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Aaron Bush owns shares of Amazon, AAPL, and TWTR. Chris Hill owns shares of Amazon. Jason Moser owns shares of Amazon, AAPL, and TWTR. Matthew Argersinger owns shares of Amazon and TWTR and has the following options: long January 2019 $15 calls on TWTR. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon, AAPL, and TWTR. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2020 $150 calls on AAPL, short January 2020 $155 calls on AAPL, short February 2019 $185 calls on Home Depot, and long January 2020 $110 calls on Home Depot. The Motley Fool recommends Home Depot and WSM. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.