Walmart raises a red flag about February sales

RetailWire panelists discussed a leaked memo from a Walmart executive, describing what appears to be a tough sales month so far. There were plenty of reasons cited (the payroll tax hike, gas prices and so on), but I suggested that most issues like this require some perspective and soul-searching:

The price of gas goes up, it goes down…I think we need to be careful to pin the blame for Walmart’s issues during the first two weeks of February on this or any other external issue. Who knows whether a succession of storms (vs. an unusually mild and dry February 2012) affected their business? What sorts of changes to their promotional calendar? Did they simply buy the wrong goods in some cases? It usually pays to look in the mirror before blaming others…and that goes for blaming one political party or the other.

More broadly, there is continuing evidence that money parked on the sidelines (especially by banks loaning to businesses) is finally being put into action. An article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal touched on this, and I had a conversation with a manufacturer of steel and wire who found banks much more willing to fund a recent factory acquisition compared to six months ago. Along with the resurgent housing market, increased lending at low interest rates will help move the economy forward at a modest pace this year.

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