NEW YORK (
pep rally, also known as its annual shareholder meeting, is taking place today in its hometown of Arkansas. But as the retail behemoth rallies its employees, shareholders want to know just how Wal-Mart plans on rallying its customers.
Despite its deep discounts, Wal-Mart has been reporting lackluster sales. In the first quarter, same-store sales dipped 1.1%, its fourth consecutive quarterly decline. And this trend could continue, as management forecasts that second-quarter sales could fall anywhere between down by 2% to up by 1%.
Analysts are saying that as consumer confidence recovers, those shoppers that traded down to Wal-Mart are moving back to higher-quality retailers like
. In comparison, Target saw a 2.8% uptick in comparable sales during its first quarter, receiving a boost from discretionary items like apparel and home goods.
CEO Mike Duke will need to answer just how Wal-Mart plans to regain and retain some of the customers.
Further international expansion will also be a topic of interest, as Wal-Mart has recently expressed interest in expanding into Russia and growing sales in existing markets like China, Chile and Brazil.
Goldman Sachs reiterated its buy rating on the stock earlier this week, citing optimism heading into the company's annual meeting. "In the absence of a sales catalyst, we believe continued focus on expense discipline and sourcing opportunities will be enough to support the stock," the brokerage firm wrote in a note.
"Wal-Mart same store sales have materially lagged competitors across discretionary retail and off-mall, discount competitors," Goldman Sachs continued. "While the second quarter is likely to see this trend continue, we expect a sequential improvement from the first quarter's 1.1% comp decline against easing comparisons. If management's tone supports this view, shares could get a lift."
-- Reported by Jeanine Poggi in New York.
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