Walmart’s (NYSE:WMT) move into the online space continues. Its latest partnership includes an alliance with Kidbox. Kidbox’s assortments will bring many upscale clothing brands into Walmart and expand its omnichannel presence. Walmart stock rose slightly higher on the news.
Still, investors should take a closer look at how much this will affect WMT stock. Even with the increase in online and upscale options, many of the same problems that have overshadowed the company remain.
Once investors take a closer look at WMT overall, they will likely find that Walmart stock already prices in any boost the equity has received from its online and tech-related improvements.
Walmart Quality Improves
Under terms of the agreement, Walmart and Kidbox will provide personal, stylized boxes. Each box will cost $48 and deliver four or five items chosen from more than 120 premium brands. This should make Walmart more active in the children’s clothing business and will provide a way for parents to benefit from more exclusive brands at a lower cost.
Walmart had long struggled with a reputation for selling more downscale items. The Kidbox partnership along with its Jetblack, its members-only personal shopping service, should help change this perception.
Moreover, it has stepped up its competition with Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN). Not only has Walmart expanded its online presence, but it has also begun to build an online-ad business on its ecommerce site. This has helped take the forward price-to-earnings (PE) ratio on Walmart stock to about 20.7.
Has Walmart Changed?
Still, investors have to wonder how much trying to beat Amazon at its own game will help Walmart. Yes, ecommerce sales for Walmart increased by 40% in 2018. However, omnichannel peers such as Target (NYSE:TGT) and Costco (NASDAQ:COST) have also seen massive online sales growth.
Moreover, WMT management also mentions the word “eCommerce” 125 times in the 2018 annual report. Yet for all of this focus, they did not disclose a specific ecommerce revenue figure. One analyst estimated $20.91 billion in U.S. ecommerce sales. Whether or not that is exact, it shows that online sales still constitute a small fraction of the $514.4 billion of Walmart’s revenue in the previous fiscal year.
WMT has made strides with online and upscale product lines, and this has boosted Walmart stock. However, in other areas, Walmart remains little-changed. While ecommerce registered high-growth, revenues rose by only 2.8% in fiscal 2019. Hence, for all of the focus on online sales, most revenue still comes from its traditional stores.
Moreover, many of the complaints that dogged Walmart for decades remain. The company has begun to deploy robots to clean floors and scan shelves. This brings the focus back to working conditions at Walmart stores. It has also drawn the ire of labor advocates who believe this will destroy jobs.
Furthermore, Walmart store expansion has slowed to almost a standstill. The company operates 11,766 stores worldwide, up from only 11,718 locations in 2018. This low growth level may make sense in the saturated U.S. market. However, it also speaks to the failure to export its retail strategy outside of North America.
Holders of Walmart stock had held out hope for offshore successes in ecommerce. Walmart purchased Indian ecommerce company Flipkart last summer in hopes of a success overseas. However, changing government policies may have effectively dismantled that business. As a result, many have floated rumors of a market exit.
The Bottom Line on Walmart stock
The Kidbox alliance could give a short-term boost to Walmart stock, but most of the company’s long-time problems remain. Partnering with Kidbox stands as the latest step WMT has made in improving product quality. Moreover, its online venture and move into online ads show that Walmart can compete with Amazon.
However, below the surface the Walmart known for labor issues and failure outside of North America intact. Store growth has come to a standstill, and the Flipkart venture appears headed for failure.
Despite the optimism surrounding Kidbox, Walmart will probably see little long-term growth until it can succeed internationally.
As of this writing, Will Healy did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned stocks. You can follow Will on Twitter at @HealyWriting.
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