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The Washington Post this morning reports that for the first time in seven quarters, Walmart was able to announce same-store sales increases, prompted, it said, by lower gasoline prices that gave its customers more disposable income to spend in its stores.

According to the Post, "While low gas prices are expected to remain a tailwind for Wal-Mart and other retailers through the holiday season, Wal-Mart said it expects to face other key challenges. Once again, promotional pricing will make for a fiercely competitive environment, and executives said a lack of must-have electronics items this year could create drag during a quarter when the entertainment category typically makes up a large share of its sales."

One measure of how Walmart plans to compete: Reuters reports that Walmart "has informed managers of its roughly 5,000 stores across the United States that they can match prices with Inc and other online retailers, the head of the company's U.S. business said on Thursday."

The company said that the memo simply formalizes a practice that many managers already were doing.

The New York Times writes that "while the offer was sure to draw attention and traffic, it also pointed to an intensifying price battle spanning brick-and-mortar stores and the web that could eat away at already thinning margins, according to some analysts."
KC's View:
As I understand it, Walmart saw strong-than-expected performance from its Sam's Club and Neighborhood Market stores, as well as in categories such as home goods, apparel, and HBC … plus online sales. But the company said that grocery sales were flat, which explains why the company is urging its stores to do a better job in areas such as fresh produce, where it needs to build strength.