Walmart and Target see student loans and higher interest rates weighing on holiday shoppers


It’s sad Santa vibes at two of the nation’s largest retailers days before Black Friday. 

“We did see some different trends in the last two weeks of the [third] quarter than the first part of the quarter,” explained Walmart CFO John David Rainey on Yahoo Finance Live (video above).

When asked if the restart of student loan payments on Oct. 1 impacted sales trends, Rainey acknowledged it may have been a factor.

There is “no doubt” it has some effect, Rainey said.

Rainey added he has seen “pretty good strength” in demand in November around certain Walmart pre-holiday promotions.

The cautious commentary on the health of the consumer overshadowed a solid quarter by the world’s largest retailer.

Today, Walmart logged revenue of $160.8 billion for its third quarter. Total revenue rose 5.2% compared to last year, and came in higher than expectations of $159.13 billion. Walmart’s US same store sales grew 4.7%, higher than the expected 3.35%.

But stretched shoppers were on display in the quarter — sales of general merchandise such as apparel and home goods fell by a mid-single digit percentage.

The company raised its full year earnings per share guidance to $6.40 to $6.48, higher than its previous guidance of $6.36 to $6.46, but lower than the expected $6.48 amid mixed sales trends.

Walmart shares fell 7% more than one hour into trading.

Target’s early read on the holidays wasn’t particularly confidence inspiring, either.

On a call with reporters this week, Target chairman and CEO Brian Cornell pointed to a “resilient” consumer managing to endure numerous financial headwinds from student loan repayments to nagging inflation.

But the caution on the call — and in Target’s holiday quarter EPS guidance — was palpable.

“In our research, themes like uncertainty, caution, and management of budgets are top of mind,” said Cornell. “Consumers are still bringing up pressures like higher interest rates, increased credit card debt, and reduced savings rates have left them with less discretionary income, forcing them to make trade-offs.”

Target posted fourth quarter EPS guidance in a range of $1.90 to $2.60, vs. estimates of $2.23.

People shop at a Target store during Black Friday sales in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., November 25, 2022. REUTERS/Jim VondruskaPeople shop at a Target store during Black Friday sales in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., November 25, 2022. REUTERS/Jim Vondruska

People shop at a Target store during Black Friday sales in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., November 25, 2022. REUTERS/Jim Vondruska (Jim Vondruska / reuters)

Unlike Walmart, however, investors shrugged off Target’s holiday season worries and zeroed in on improved margins and profits.

After almost two years of brutal results at the hands of execution missteps, rising retail theft, and increasingly cautious consumer sentiments, Target clobbered lowered analyst estimates for sales, margins, and earnings.

Its stock soared 17% after the report.

Yahoo Finance senior reporter Brooke DiPalma contributed to this story.

Brian Sozzi is Yahoo Finance’s Executive Editor. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn. Tips on deals, mergers, activist situations, or anything else? Email brian.sozzi@yahoofinance.com.

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