The nation’s two biggest big-box retailers, Walmart and Target, reported markedly different results for their second quarters. For the three-month period ending July 28, 2023, Walmart’s net sales increased 5.4% over the same period last year, reaching $110.9 billion. Total revenue also grew, up 5.7% over last year’s Q2 to $161.6 billion, helped by a 24% increase in ecommerce revenues that showed strength in pickup/delivery and advertising.
In contrast, Target’s comp sales for the three-month period ending July 29, 2023 dropped 5.4%, feeding a 4.9% decrease in total revenue compared to the previous year, from $26 million to $24.7 million. The retailer is now projecting comp sales will decline in the mid-single-digit range for the rest of the fiscal year, but CEO Brian Cornell highlighted “better-than-expected profitability in the face of softer-than-expected sales.”
“With the benefit of a much-leaner inventory position than a year ago, the team was able to quickly respond to rapidly changing topline trends throughout the second quarter, while continuing to focus on the guest experience,” said Cornell in a statement.
Discussing the retailer’s Q2 results during a conference call, Cornell noted the negative impact from Target’s removal of LGBTQ-themed Pride merchandise due to disruptions in some of its stores that the retailer said put its associates at risk.
Off-Price Retail Shows its Strength
Despite lower inflation and still-strong consumer spending raising hopes that the U.S. economy can be brought to a “soft landing,” based on the results of off-price retailer TJX, shoppers were still seeking bargains during Q2. The retailer, which operates the Marmaxx and HomeGoods brands as well as TJX Canada and TJX International, increased net sales 8% and comp sales 6% during Q2, which ended July 29, 2023, compared to the same period the previous year.
For the first six months of its fiscal year, TJX’s net sales grew 6% and comp store sales climbed 4% compared to the same period the previous year, indicating that business in Q2 was even healthier than in Q1.
“Our overall comp sales growth was driven by customer traffic, which increased at every division,” said Ernie Herrman, CEO and President of TJX in a statement. “It was terrific to see Marmaxx, our largest division, drive an 8% comp sales increase. Overall home sales significantly improved and returned to positive comp sales growth, with HomeGoods posting a 4% comp sales increase.”
In another vertical that’s often a bellwether for the entire economy, home improvement chain The Home Depot saw small declines in multiple key indicators. Sales of $42.9 billion in Q2, which ended July 30, were 2% lower than the same period in 2022, and comp store sales — both overall and in the U.S. alone — also dropped by 2%.
“While there was strength in categories associated with smaller projects, we did see continued pressure in certain big-ticket, discretionary categories,” said Ted Decker, CEO of Home Depot in a statement. “We remain very positive on the medium- to long-term outlook for home improvement and our ability to grow share in a large and fragmented market.”
Despite Decker’s optimism, the retailer is reaffirming its FY 2023 guidance, which forecasts that Home Depot’s sales and comp sales will decline 2% to 5% compared to the previous fiscal year.
Ecommerce Giants Generate Growth
Amazon had a more-than-solid Q2, increasing net sales 11% over the previous year to $134.4 billion. Sales rose across key divisions, climbing 11% in North America, 10% internationally and 12% for cloud services provider AWS.
“It was another strong quarter of progress for Amazon,” said Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon in a statement. “We continued lowering our cost to serve in our fulfillment network, while also providing Prime customers with the fastest delivery speeds we’ve ever recorded. Our AWS growth stabilized as customers started shifting from cost optimization to new workload deployment, and AWS has continued to add to its meaningful leadership position in the cloud with a slew of generative AI releases that make it much easier and more cost-effective for companies to train and run models, customize large language models to build generative AI applications and agents, and write code much more efficiently with CodeWhisperer.”
Reporting its first quarterly results since splitting into six distinct businesses, Alibaba Group boosted its Q2 revenue 14% year-over-year to $32.3 billion. Alibaba’s Taobao and Tmall ecommerce division increased revenues 12% to $15.8 million, with a 6.5% year-over-year jump in daily active users of the Taobao app. The Freshippo supermarkets division, which is preparing for an IPO, was also in growth mode, opening new stores in eight Chinese cities.