Walmart Fights Slowing Growth With Insurance, Money Transfers

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- As Walmart's (WMT) growth slows, the retailer is turning to alternative services including auto insurance and money transfers in order to capture additional revenue.

The No. 1 U.S. retailer last week reported disappointing first-quarter results.

Diluted earnings per share declined 2.6%. Walmart blamed severe weather in the U.S., saying it subtracted 3 cents from EPS. Net sales for the company grew a meager 0.8% to $114.2 billion. Same-store sales in the U.S. were flat at Walmart locations and down 0.5% at Sam's Club locations. The biggest bright spot was e-commerce, where sales surged 27%.

In an attempt to bring more customers into its stores and capture additional -- if marginal -- revenue, Walmart partnered with AutoInsurance.com to bring auto insurance to the masses. Walmart says the partnership brings "a first-of-its-kind auto insurance comparison service that helps drivers quickly buy and save significantly on policies."

The comparison tool will bring quotes from several of the biggest insurance companies in the nation, including Progressive (PGR), eSurance (ALL), Safeco, and The General. The service is now available in most southern states, with national expansion coming soon.

Walmart thinks it can get more people to comparison shop. It argues that 90% of people comparison shop online for most products, but only 20% of people comparison shop for auto insurance. The company also believes it can make a big difference for "millenials," who cite auto insurance as one of their biggest and most outrageous monthly costs.

The hope here is that more people will choose to comparison shop while in the store or will come to Walmart to check out the service but then buy other products in the store. The money brought in from this service will likely be minimal, as Walmart tries to beat competitors' prices.

The other service Wal-Mart has grown into is money transfers.

The company has already offered services such as check cashing, bill payment, and tax preparation. A new service called "Walmart2walmart" was launched to provide low-cost money transfering options. Customers can transfer money from any store to another store, where a family member or friend can pick up cash.

Walmart says there is a need for such money transfer options because 28% of Americans are underbanked or unbanked. Wal-Mart also claims that its fees are 50% less than rivals: $4.50 for transfers less than $50 and $9.50 for all transfers from $50 to $900.

With more than 245 million customers a week, Walmart should be capitalizing more on its stores by offering additional services. Locations already feature gas stations, restaurants and pharmacies. Wal-Mart stores are valuable real estate and the company should be taking advantage on its large customer base.

Walmart has made itself ubiquitous in the U.S. and in some other foreign countries. There doesn't seem to be a whole lot left for the retailer to do in terms of expansion.

Thus, the company has to continue to add additional items to its stores and new services to try to capture additional revenue. With ever-growing online competition, Walmart may need a new trick to prompt investors to pour into its stock. For now, Walmart is attracting investors looking for dividend yield and share buybacks.

Analysts see Walmart growing EPS to $5.18 for fiscal 2015. This represents bottom-line growth of only 1%. Revenue is expected to grow 2.4% to $487.6 billion. In fiscal 2016, earnings are seen rising to $5.64 per share, and revenue is projected to grow 3.9% to $506.8 billion.

Clearly, the company is up against the law of large numbers. Add-ons like the auto insurance and money transfers are nice, but they likely won't be big revenue drivers.

At the time of publication, the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned.

Follow Chris on Twitter @chriskatje

This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

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