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Walmart Expands Summer Sales

Douglas A. McIntyre

Wal-Mart Stores (WMT), with sales at its U.S. stores flat year-over-year for several quarters, needs strong revenue through the Memorial Day to Labor Day period. If it can pull this off and same-store sales move up 3% or 4%, it will have partially proven that the chance for improved prospects in North America have not ended.

Walmart's online business has become just as important to is future as its stores. This is despite the fact that far less than 10% of total revenue comes from walmart.com. Investors want Walmart to make more progress against Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN), which could see sales which approach $100 billion this year.

Walmart is not without e-commerce tools. Its online audience in the U.S. among desktop PC users was 34 million in March according to comScore. This is well behind Amazon's 103 million, but well ahead of any other retailer.

Walmart's biggest push of the summer falls mostly into two categories -- one is outside furniture and the other summer clothes. Walmart is highlighting outdoor tables and chairs along with appliances and plates and utensils. Where else can a consumer get an entire outside set of furniture for under $300?

READ MORE: Walmart Moves Into Car Insurance

Among the clothes Walmart highlights at walmart.com are in its "swim shop." The huge retailer must think enough people go out into the sun to make these sunbathers a major market. And $33 swimsuits (which have been promoted in O, The Oprah Magazine), are irresistibly well priced. However, it is hard to imagine that Oprah wears them.

A great deal of Walmart's summer success or lack thereof is beyond its control. Most people who go to its stores are either low income or lower income middle class Americans. For many of them, a recovery from the recession has never taken hold. And, these people face a summer of high gas prices, which could erode their discretionary income to zero.

Walmart's summer sales are probably enticing for many consumers. The question is whether most of these people have any money