Walmart decides to stop reporting monthly comp sales

Most fellow RetailWire panelists disagreed with me on the subject of Walmart’s announcement that it plans to stop announcing monthly store-for-store sales. They felt it would lead the retail industry in general (if other stores follow) toward more focus on long-term results.  I take the contrary position that it’s good for publicly traded retailers to show more transparency, not less:

Most other retailers that have stopped reporting sales on a monthly basis, such as Macy’s and Sears Holdings, have been roundly criticized for it. In fact, Macy’s reverted to monthly sales reporting last year when it became apparent during the stock market free-fall that investors wanted more transparency. In this case, Walmart may be “too big to care.”

The world’s largest retailer — and second-largest company of any kind — may feel that monthly reporting reflects short-term changes in the calendar, but most analysts who pay attention to the retail sector understand the impact of the Easter switch from one year to the next. Walmart may also feel that monthly reporting puts too much pressure on short-term thinking, but is quarterly reporting of sales and earnings really any different?

Bottom line: Taking Walmart out of the monthly sales data presents a very incomplete picture of how the retail sector in general is doing. This might give other public companies the “cover” they need to stop reporting monthly sales, but it does a disservice to shareholders.

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