Walmart’s Desperate $3.3 Billion Acquisition of Fails. But it Now Discloses its US Online Sales, and They’re Big

Walmart’s Desperate $3.3 Billion Acquisition of Fails. But it Now Discloses its US Online Sales, and They’re Big by Wolf Richter for Wolf Street

Ecommerce is an existential threat to Walmart, and it’s furiously trying to get on top of it, whatever the cost may be.

Walmart, determined in an existential sense to become a factor in ecommerce, has been spending vast sums of money to get there, including blowing billions of dollars on acquisitions of ecommerce startups. But the mind-boggling $3.3 billion purchase in 2016 of – an over-hyped online retailer that had started doing business in 2015 – wasn’t the ticket.

Walmart conceded as much Wednesday afternoon. The admission was likely prodded by an investigative report by Reuters that appeared at the same time, detailing to what extent sales at had shrunk, and how had been quietly absorbing Jet’s people and winding it down. $3.3 billion down the tubes.

Walmart’s ecommerce business is already huge, and it’s now disclosing the actual dollar figures in its SEC filings. During the quarter ended April 30, its ecommerce sales in the US jumped by 34% year-over-year to $4.3 billion (10-Q filing).

At this rate of growth, its ecommerce sales in the US will hit $5.8 billion in the same quarter next year. By comparison, Macy’s total sales, brick-and-mortar plus ecommerce, fell to $5.5 billion in the quarter despite its thriving online business. Walmart went from on online non-entity a few years ago to the third largest online retailer in the US in 2019, according to eMarketer estimates, behind only Amazon, eBay, and Apple.

Its online business is growing far faster than that of Amazon. But for Walmart, that massive $4.3 billion in US online sales last quarter was only a 5.3% sliver of its total US sales of $80 billion.

By contrast, other brick-and-mortar retailers that now disclose actual online sales (not many do), Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus get over 30% of their total sales from ecommerce. Walmart has a long way to go. But wasn’t it.

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Wolf Richter

In his cynical, tongue-in-cheek manner, he muses on WOLF STREET about economic, business, and financial issues, Wall Street shenanigans, complex entanglements, and other things, debacles, and opportunities that catch his eye in the US, Europe, Japan, and occasionally China. WOLF STREET is the successor to his first platform… TP-Title-7-small-200px …whose ghastly name he finally abandoned in July 2014. Here’s the story on that. Wolf lives in San Francisco. He has over twenty years of C-level operations experience, including turnarounds and a VC-funded startup. He earned his BA and MBA in Texas and his MA in Oklahoma, worked in both states for years, including a decade as General Manager and COO of a large Ford dealership and its subsidiaries. But one day, he quit and went to France for seven weeks to open himself up to new possibilities, which degenerated into a life-altering three-year journey across 100 countries on all continents, much of it overland. And it almost swallowed him up.