April sales figures show a disappointing month for Wal-Mart. The world's largest retailer reported a big drop in sales last month -- its worst decline in nearly 30 years. As VOA's Mil Arcega reports, Wal-Mart is not alone.
A three and a half percent drop in sales does not seem like much. But for a company that sells more than $300 billion worth of goods every year, analysts say it is significant.
Alan Murray, the managing editor of the Wall Street Journal, says the drop represents Wal-Mart's biggest decline since 1979. "There are a number of things going on. Part of it is early Easter, so some of those sales got moved into March. Part of it is bad weather."
But it may also signal a trend. Across the board, retailers from Target to JC Penny and the Gap, reported weaker sales in April. Analysts say the decline suggests high gasoline prices and the slowing U.S. housing market are finally catching up with consumers. Murray says there may be other factors at play.
"Wal-Mart is not doing what it used to do very well. It made an attempt last year to sell clothes to high scale retailers. That didn't work. It had to back off. It's remodeling its stores. That's not working very well," says Murray.
To bring customers back, some say Wal-Mart needs to go back to its marketing basics. Retail analyst Dana Telsey says that means low priced goods in a friendly retail environment. "I think Wal-Mart is working to enhance its image. It could always be better. Going back to its roots is a way, that hopefully, customers will become familiar with it again."
Wal-Mart is one of the biggest economic indicators in the retail industry. As the world's largest profit making enterprise, Wal-Mart's yearly revenues represents about 2.5 percent of total economic activity in the U.S.