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Coronavirus stimulus checks of $1,200 will be a 'much needed' relief to American households: top Walmart exec

Brian Sozzi
Editor-at-Large

Let’s get those newly approved coronavirus stimulus checks flowing, Mr. Treasury Secretary.

To be sure, with job loss and slashed hours at the hands of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping across the country many U.S. households are in bad need of the checks to cover basic bills and food. Walmart executive vice president Dan Bartlett says the cash infusion into the country will be particularly helpful to the retailer’s economically sensitive shoppers.

“The fact the Treasury Secretary said these checks will be out in three weeks is very timely for a lot of families. I imagine they will restock to a certain extent, but this is going to be a much needed relief for the economy and the American people,” Bartlett said on Yahoo Finance’s The Final Round.

The Senate passed a historic $2 trillion coronavirus relief package on Wednesday. As part of the package, adults with annual incomes up to $75,000 will receive $1,200 in payments. Another $500 per child will also be granted. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin confirmed Thursday the checks will be sent out in three weeks.

Even without the checks though, Walmart has seen a “massive” uptick in sales volume as consumers stock up to ride out self-imposed quarantines. Bartlett says the largest sales lifts continue to be seen in household essentials (think toilet paper), but has also extended to other stay-at-home categories such as arts and crafts.

People going in and coming out of a Walmart store in San Francisco. [Credit: Getty]

Something in common with Target

Walmart rival Target voiced similar business trends earlier in the week.

Target’s March to-date comparable sales have surged 20%. Comparable sales in essentials and food and beverage are up more than 50%. Comparable sales in apparel and accessories (higher margin categories) are down more than 20%.

The retailer warned on gross profit margins for the first quarter as lower margin food and household essential goods skyrocket. It pulled its full-year guidance citing uncertainty in the business.

Walmart has yet to update its full-year sales and earnings guidance, but some sort of revision isn’t out of the realm of possibilities based on Target’s warning. The company is looking for a full-year earnings per share increase of 1.5% and 4.5%. Sales — excluding the impact of volatile currency — is seen rising about 3% on the year.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-anchor of The First Trade at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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