Walmart (WMT) has been through a rough patch this year. Worse-than-expected full-year earnings guidance on Oct. 14 dragged the company's shares to its lowest level in more than three years.
The retail giant went said sales for the current fiscal year, which ends Jan. 31, 2016, would be flat, while its earnings per share could decline by 6%-12% over the next fiscal year. The stock closed at $60.03 that day. Since then, Walmart's shares have slid about 5% more.
So what's wrong with this behemoth of a company? With its earnings report scheduled for Tuesday, can Walmart bounce back and revitalize itself? We consider the facts of the Walmart story and explain why the company is on the cusp of revival.
Analysts expect Walmart to report 98 cents a share in earnings for its fiscal third quarter, which finished at the end of October. This is down 14.8% compared to the $1.15 cents a share reported in the same quarter a year earlier. Revenue is expected to come in at $117.79 billion, down 1% from $119 billion a year earlier.
Commentators had been expecting the quarter's earnings to hit $1.08 cents a share, but the company's guidance last month caused them to revise their forecasts dramatically.
Walmart missed Wall Street expectations in its last two quarterly reports, so the real question is whether Walmart can engineer a dramatic turnaround.
So as we head into the holiday season, what does the future hold for Walmart?
Based on forward earnings estimates, Walmart is trading at price-to-earnings ratio of 13.5.
Pressure on Walmart to raise its wages will have an impact on the company's earnings in its next fiscal year. The company said it was investing $1.5 billion in wages and training, which includes raising its minimum store wage to $10 an hour from $9 an hour. Although Walmart said this would improve customer service, it will also be a large reason for the 6% to 12% decline in EPS in the next fiscal year.
Keep in mind that those investments could bear fruit in the future. Also, on a brighter note, Walmart has significantly boosted its holiday inventory. The company also plans to offer longer-term discounts through the festive season.
And if soaring U.S. auto sales in October are any indicator, consumer sentiment is on the upswing and shows promise for the coming quarters. We wouldn't be surprised if Walmart manages to hit quarterly sales of $118 billion-$119 billion (the range suggested by more optimistic analysts of the stock).
After losing a sizable chunk of its U.S. market share in retail sales to such competitors as e-commerce giant Amazon, Walmart still remains in good shape heading into the holiday season, with cost-cutting, new discounting campaigns and forays into e-commerce. Unlike retail competitors such as Sears Holdings, which are lagging in adopting the latest technology, Walmart possesses sufficient inherent strengths to engineer a comeback. Case in point: Walmart expects around 210 million visits to its mobile app, a rock-solid number especially if conversion rates are high.
So, a slow and steady revival is highly probable for this retailing giant. If you want a direct play on a resurgent consumer this year, Walmart is a smart buy ahead of its earnings announcement.
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This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.