Walmart beats on profit, posts record online sales on pandemic boost

(Reuters) - Walmart Inc ( WMT.N ) posted its biggest-ever growth in online sales on Tuesday as shoppers cashed in stimulus checks and ordered everything from electronics and toys to groceries from the safety of their homes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The results showed that the unprecedented spike in demand seen by big-box retailers at the peak of the coronavirus lockdowns has remained strong even as restrictions ease, with shoppers using their stimulus checks to shop for discretionary items like sneakers and clothes.

FILE PHOTO: Shopper wearing face masks are pictured in the parking of a Walmart Superstore during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Rosemead, California, U.S., June 11, 2020.

Walmart executives also said the back-to-school season has been “choppy,” as more school districts rolled back their reopening plans to curb the spread of coronavirus and shoppers had little-to-no need for backpacks and uniforms.

“Hinting at back-to-school being a little bit weaker or more spread out - and with no guidance - always gives investors an area of concern,” said Randy Hare, portfolio manager at Huntington Private Bank, adding that shares might have traded higher had they done so.

Despite recording $1.5 billion in COVID-19 related expenses, that include higher wages and bonuses for employees, Walmart said its margins improved in the quarter, helped by stimulus checks that had consumers spending on bigger ticket items like home furnishings and apparel.

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