Walmart earnings soar as e-commerce sales jump, shoppers flock to stores

People wearing masks and gloves wait to enter a Walmart on April 17, 2020 in Uniondale, New York.

Al Bello | Getty Images

Walmart is set to report its first-quarter earnings before the bell on Tuesday.

The big-box retailer has kept stores open as an essential retailer during the coronavirus pandemic. To meet demand, it hired 200,000 employees to help clean stores, stock shelves and fulfill online orders.

Here’s what Wall Street is expecting, based on Refinitiv data:

  • Earnings per share: $1.12
  • Revenue: $132.79 billion

Same-store sales are expected to be up 7.2% in the U.S., according to StreetAccount consensus estimates.

The pandemic has shaken up customers’ shopping behaviors and made earnings difficult for analysts to predict. 

Walmart had a surge in sales in the early weeks of the pandemic as customers stockpiled groceries, hand sanitizer and toilet paper. Instead of going to stores, customers turned to online shopping, with many buying different kinds of items — such as hair color, beard trimmers and sewing machines — as they anticipated spending more time in their homes because of the outbreak.

The big-box retailer is the largest private sector employer in the U.S. It initially announced plans to hire 150,000 additional part-time and full-time workers, but later increased that to 200,000. Most roles are temporary and many have been filled by people whose companies have been hit by layoffs and furloughs, the company’s executive vice president of corporate affairs Dan Bartlett said.

But as sales have grown, so have Walmart’s costs. Along with a larger work force, it’s had two rounds of bonuses for employees and it’s accelerated the payout of first-quarter bonuses. The retailer said that has totaled more than $935 million.

During the pandemic, Walmart has had $2 an hour temporary pay increases for distribution center workers. It’s also added safety measures, such as taking employees’ temperatures and providing them with masks and gloves.