Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) - Get Report has proven to be the recession's knight in shining armor. But despite its thick, metallic skin, the big-box discounter must still address some big questions heading into its annual meeting on Friday.
Wal-Mart has led the value-oriented pack, as discount retailers sharply accelerate share gains amid the economic malaise. While overall the sector accounts for about one-fifth of total U.S. retail sales, according to a report by Customer Growth Partners, it's Wal-Mart that makes up for most of the share gain -almost two-thirds of it.
Wal-Mart's share of the total U.S. retail market rose to 11.36% in the first four month of the year, compared with 10.54% the same period in 2008, as shoppers flock to the retail giant for food and other household basics, CPG said. It also continues to amass an increasing market share in consumer electronics.
But what happens once the recession is over? Craig Johnson, president of CPG, is calling for Wal-Mart execs to answer just how the company will retain the new "Wal-Mart mom" once the economy recovers.
There is also the question of the future of Wal-Mart's Japan unit. The Seiyu division has been experiencing weakness since Wal-Mart nabbed a stake in the company three years ago. And with the leader of Seiyu, Vicente Trius, recently named President and CEO of Wal-Mart Latin America, it's all the more urgent to find out just how the company plans to turnaround the business.
And while it may seem an odd time to discuss growth -- with most retailers shuttering doors and scaling back expenses -- Johnson is hoping Wal-Mart will address the next major vehicle for growth: the possibility of M&A activity on the horizon.
As all eyes are on the retail sector tomorrow, when most major companies are set to release May same-store sales numbers, for once Wal-Mart will be on the sidelines.
Usually a harbinger of the economic climate, Wal-Mart will refrain from releasing May same-store sales on Thursday, the first time it will have failed to do so in 30 yeas. This leaves only
among the discounters who still report monthly sales data.
In other words, investors will have to wait until Friday to receive Wal-Mart's answers.
Copyright 2009 TheStreet.com Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.