Walmart online sales jump 63% in first quarter

Arkansas-based retailer Walmart said its online sales jumped 63 percent in the first quarter of 2017. Screen shot courtesy walmart.com

May 18 (UPI) — Walmart announced Thursday its online sales jumped a whopping 63 percent in the first quarter of 2017 as the company seeks to challenge Amazon for online sales supremacy.

Walmart, the nation’s largest brick-and-mortar retailer, has moved aggressively in the last year to improve its presence online, with an eye toward making its digital footprint as formidable as the big box stores dotting every corner of the United States.

In a show of how much the company still relies on in-store purchases, the 63 percent jump in online sales contributed to a 1.4 percent increase in total sales for the quarter, which reached $117.5 billion.

Walmart did not release specific data to show how much the online sales increased organically — as in, online shoppers who visited the website directly — versus revenue brought when the company bought out several established online retailers, most notably bulk retailer Jet.com.

The company would only say a “majority” of the sales growth happened organically. It paid $3.3 billion to acquire Jet.com in 2016.

Walmart has made a significant push to increase its online offerings. Officials said the website now offers 50 million products for purchase, up from 10 million a year ago.

Company officials said the first quarter numbers put Walmart in a stronger position to increase its online market share moving forward.

“This is extraordinary growth, and we’re pleased with the traction we’re generating across our e-commerce offerings,” said Brett Biggs, Walmart’s executive vice president and chief financial officer.

Analysts said the company is now benefitting from its having lagged behind other retailers in online business. The question now, they said, is whether the growth can continue.

“I think it’s fair to say that Walmart is coming from behind online,” said Neil Saunders, the managing director of the research firm GlobalData Retail. “It has underperformed in that area, so what we’re seeing now is really a catch-up to where it needs to be in order to more seriously compete with the likes of Amazon.”

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