Wal-Mart Reports Record Sales; Embraces Blu-Ray

Consumers, worried about the economy and looking for all the deals they can find, lifted Wal-Mart's sales above $100 billion last quarter--a record for the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer.

Net sales for its fiscal fourth-quarter came in at $106.3 billion, an 8.3% jump over the fourth quarter of fiscal 2007. And income from continuing operations for the quarter gained 4% to $4.1 billion. Same-store sales at its U.S. Wal-Mart stores rose 1.6% for the quarter, while sales at its Sam's Clubs increased 2.5%.

But the company says the economy continues to be challenging for its shoppers. "The price leadership strategy we put in place at the beginning of the year was exactly the right strategy for our customers around the world in a tough economic environment," the company says in its release of its financial results. "We know that the economy remains a critical factor in this new fiscal year," it says, adding "customers were more cautious in their spending in January."



Similar concerns caused Best Buy to lower its earnings outlook, warning investors that--as with Wal-Mart--revenue growth was lower than expected in January.

Both Wal-Mart and Best Buy also announced that they would move toward the Blu-ray format in home entertainment. Wal-Mart says that by June, its 4,000 Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores will have phased out HD DVD offerings in favor of Blu-ray movies and hardware. And last week, Best Buy said that while it would continue to carry HD DVD selections, beginning next month, it will "prominently showcase Blu-ray hardware and software products in its Best Buy retail and online channels in the U.S."

Separately, the Entertainment Merchants Association applauded "the acceptance by the marketplace of a single format for high-definition discs," it says. "Now that consumer confusion concerning dueling formats has ended, it is time for suppliers and retailers to redouble their efforts to bring home the message that Blu-ray discs deliver the finest viewing experience. The marketplace has spoken," the trade group says. "It is time that consumers hear the message."

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