FILE - In this Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013, photo, Tracey Anderson, 26, re-stocks X-Box sets on opening day of a new Wal-Mart on Georgia Avenue Northwest in Washington. Wal-Mart reports quarterly earnings on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin. File)
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. reported disappointing earnings for its fourth quarter and fiscal year, citing domestic problems like severe storms, cuts to federal benefits, an economically struggling customer base and international currency fluctuations.
The company announced Thursday that profit in the fourth quarter, which included the pivotal holiday shopping season, was down 21 percent from the same period last year. Sales at U.S. stores open for at least a year were down 0.4 percent — its fourth consecutive negative number in that category — and traffic in U.S. locations declined 1.7 percent.
Excluding one-time costs, like store closures in Brazil and China, the company came in at the low end of its guidance.
The company also said Thursday that it was seeing success at its small-format stores, and planned to roll out more locations than previously announced.
In a call with reporters, William Simon, the chief executive of Wal-Mart U.S., said that cuts to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, crimped the company’s results. A ferocious winter with multiple storms also cut into earnings, Simon said, detracting from a positive performance during the holiday period. He said the storms “aren’t an excuse, but merely an explanation.”
Ken Perkins, founder of Retail Metrics, said the company’s central problem was the plight of its core consumers, who are still struggling with stagnant wages.