February 26, 2013, 12:52 PM

Wal-Mart says its e-commerce push is working

Investments “in our e-commerce business are delivering,” says CEO Neil Ashe.

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Wal-Mart's forecast of $9 billion in global e-commerce this year may be on track.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s efforts to generate $9 billion in global e-commerce sales in 2013 may be on target.

“The investments we’ve made so far in our e-commerce business are delivering,” said Neil Ashe, president and CEO of the retailer’s e-commerce operations, during a conference call with analysts to discuss Q4 and annual earnings. “Revenue growth is accelerating and ahead of our plans. During the fourth quarter we took share in all of our key markets.”

Walmart.com had its highest one-day sales ever on Cyber Monday, the first Monday after Thanksgiving, Bill Simon, president and CEO of Wal-Mart U.S., told analysts. Wal-Mart did not disclose its 2012 or fourth quarter e-commerce sales, but the company had Internet Retailer-estimated web sales of $4.90 billion in 2011, a 19.5% increase from an estimated $4.10 billion in 2010.

Wal-Mart, No. 4 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 guide, said in October it expects to reach $9 billion in e-commerce revenue for the fiscal year ending Jan. 31, 2014. Only two U.S. retailers exceeded $9 billion in web sales in 2011, the last year for which top 500 data are available: Amazon.com Inc., No. 1 in the Top 500, and No. 2 Staples Inc. Apple was No. 3 with $6.66 billion in online sales, according to Internet Retailer estimates.

In the last year Wal-Mart updated its product search engine and developed pricing optimization tools on Walmart.com, Ashe said. It also has upgraded mobile commerce, including expanding self-checkout in its stores to consumers using the retailer’s iPhone app.

Ashe said e-commerce investments last year led to continued growth in key markets, such as the United Kingdom. Total online sales in the U.K. increased 18.8% in the fourth quarter over the prior-year period, Doug McMillon, president and CEO of Walmart International, told analysts.

Wal-Mart’s e-commerce initiatives under way in 2013 including developing a fulfillment network that incorporates stores, store distribution centers and online fulfillment centers, and further improvements to its technology platform, Ashe said.

For the year ending Jan. 31, Wal-Mart reported:

  • Sales of $466.11 billion, a 5.0% increase from $443.85 billion in the 2012 fiscal year.
  • Net income of $17.00 billion, an 8.3% increase from $15.70 billion in the prior year.
  • Comparable-store sales, which measure sales at stores open at least a year, grew 2.1%.
  • In 2012, Wal-Mart opened 150 stores, including its Sam’s Club membership stores, in the United States, and 527 in other countries. Wal-Mart operates 4,625 U.S. stores and 6,148 outside the U.S.

For the fourth quarter, Wal-Mart reported:

  • Sales of $127.10 billion, up 3.9% from $122.29 billion in the same quarter a year ago.
  • A profit of $5.61 billion, up by 8.7% from net income of $5.16 billion last year.
  • Comparable-store sales grew 1.2%.
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