Walmart’s Online Business Is Booming; Are We Getting Closer to One Retail Leader?

Walmart is firing on all cylinders.

The retail behemoth today released third-quarter results that blew past expectations — with blockbuster strength in e-commerce, up 50 percent.

As a result, the firm’s shares today hit record highs, surging more than 9 percent. The stock ended the trading day up nearly 11 percent to $99.62.

Over the past three years, amid intense competition from e-giant Amazon, Walmart has moved aggressively to up the ante on digital — snapping up Jet.com, ShoeBuy (now Shoes.com), Moosejaw, ModCloth and Bonobos in the past 18 months.

But far greater than simply acquiring businesses, the company has gained new expertise and an edge as a result. Just this week, Walmart announced a new online partnership with upscale department store Lord & Taylor, a move that could further help the company transform itself from a discount site to an online shopping destination offering high-end items — making it an even more viable force against e-giant Amazon.

But even with all of its partnerships, the majority of Walmart’s recent e-commerce gains have come through its home site, Walmart.com — a testament to its omnichannel strategy.

“Existing customers have become advocates for popular initiatives like online grocery and free two-day shipping, and as a result, new customers, suppliers and partnerships are coming to Walmart,” president and CEO Doug McMillon told investors today. “The expanded assortment on Walmart.com has also contributed to growth. Over the past year, we’ve tripled the number of items on Walmart.com to reach more than 70 million SKUs today.”

In the battle between Amazon and Walmart for retail dominion, Walmart has long been viewed as the brick-and-mortar (and grocery) king, pitted against Amazon — the digital leader. But as Walmart closes in on the digital side and Amazon makes its grocery (Whole Foods) and brick-and-mortar plays, the day of having two leaders of distinct spaces is getting further in the rearview.

Overall, Walmart said its Q3 revenues gained 4.2 percent to $123.2 billion, besting forecasts for revenues of $121 billion. Reported profits were down 42 percent to $1.7 billion, or 58 cents per diluted share, including a debt extinguishment charge. But on an adjusted basis, diluted earnings per share were $1, handily topping analysts’ bets for diluted EPS of 97 cents.

Walmart U.S. comp sales rose 2.7 percent, and comp traffic increased 1.5 percent.

Access exclusive content