Walmart suffers surprise drop in sales

The grim consumer environment in the United States led to an unexpected drop in sales in Walmart over the first quarter, with the world's largest retailer missing Wall Street expectations.

Same-store sales at the company's core US unit declined by 1.4 per cent in the 13 weeks to the end of April. The company, and Wall Street analysts, had expected the result to be flat compared with last year, but the retailer suffered as a combination of negative factors, including the payroll tax rises that began to hit US consumers at the beginning of this year, took their toll.

Meanwhile, in the UK, Walmart-owned Asda said its like-for-like sales in the 14 weeks to 12 April had climbed by 1.3 per cent, excluding the impact of VAT and fuel. "This represents a strong performance in what remains a very tough market," Asda's chief executive, Andy Clarke, said.