NEW YORK – Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s (WMT) share price tumbled nearly 4 percent Monday after the world's largest retailer lowered its November sales forecast over the weekend, disappointing some analysts.
Wal-Mart had said Saturday it expected its sales at stores open at least a year to be up only 0.7 percent in November, rather than its earlier projection of 2 percent to 4 percent growth.
Wal-Mart shares were down $2.17, or 3.9 percent, at $53.15 on the New York Stock Exchange (search).
Retail analyst Kurt Barnard noted that Wal-Mart's downward sales forecast did not necessarily indicate the company will make less money.
"They never even mentioned the word profit," said Barnard, president of Barnard's Retail Forecasting (search) in Upper Montclair, N.J.
Barnard and other analysts said Wal-Mart didn't offer the deep discounts it did in past years as the holiday shopping season kicked off on Friday.
"I think that Wal-Mart simply decided its normal range of pricing is such that it is definitely considered low by any normal standard," Barnard said.
By sitting out a year of doorbuster promotions, Wal-Mart may well have been trying to see if it can keep its profits up without having to slash prices on already discounted merchandise, Barnard said.
"They're looking to get a better gross margin," he said. "They undoubtedly achieved that."
Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, said it had no comment beyond its Saturday sales release.
The new projection was based on four weeks' worth of sales, from Oct. 30 through Friday, the company said in a statement on its Web site. "Sales fell below plan this past week, which impacted the results of our November forecast," the statement said. "Keep in mind that this past week was the largest week of the reporting period."
According to Wal-Mart, sales were strongest in the categories of bedding, food, and pet supplies.
"For the day after Thanksgiving, strength in blitz items included digital cameras, the TV-DVD combo, learning toys and video games," the company said.
Analysts said discount retailers were still feeling the effect of higher fuel prices, which takes away from the cash they have on hand to spend.