Walmart reported that U.S. comp-store sales were up 8.6% year over year in the fourth quarter and for the recently ended fiscal 2021 as the retailer announced plans to raise the average associate wage to above $15 an hour.
Fourth-quarter revenue for the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer was a record $152.1 billion, up 7.3%, according to a news release issued Feb. 18 ahead of Walmart's investors call. For all of fiscal 2021, revenue climbed 6.7% to $559.2 billion.
The company stated that its strong current financial position makes this a prime time to accelerate investments in high priority areas, including "capacity and automation in DCs (distribution centers), FCs (fulfillment centers) and market fulfillment centers to accelerate sales and profit growth."
Walmart, which has intensified its focus on an omnichannel strategy in the past year, reported that e-commerce sales rose 69% year over year in the fourth quarter and 79% for the year.
"This is a time to be even more aggressive because of the opportunity we see in front of us," Walmart President and CEO Doug McMillon said in the release.
Sam's Club recorded a standout performance over the course of the year, with comp sales up 10.8% in the final quarter and 11.8% for the year.
With respect to pay, Walmart said it expects to raise wages "for an additional 425,000 front-line associates after raising wages for 165,000 associates last fall." Many of the associates who will see wage increases have been with the company for an extended period of time, McMillon said during an earnings presentation.
The company is not raising the minimum wage for all associates to $15 an hour, but McMillon said Walmart is watching that conversation nationally. Regardless of movement or lack thereof on raising the federal minimum wage, Walmart plans to raise its starting wage (currently north of $11 an hour) over time and will be "sensitive to geography" in doing so, McMillon added. With technology continuing to heavily influence the jobs landscape, Walmart seeks to create "a ladder of opportunity" for employees, he said.
Walmart expects comp sales growth at U.S. Walmart and Sam's Club stores to be in the low single digits, excluding fuel, in fiscal 2022. "Assumptions in the guidance are dependent upon the duration and intensity of the COVID-19 health crisis globally, timing and effectiveness of global vaccines, the scale and duration of economic stimulus, employment trends and consumer confidence," the company said.