What is happening to the economy?: Sales at Walmart's US stores open for at least a year fell 0.3%, their FIFTH CONSECUTIVE QUARTERLY DROP

Is the decline at Walmart due to the economy?  Is it due to internet retailing?  Is it that Walmart just isn't operating very well right now?  From the UK Guardian:
Walmart dampened hopes of a widespread economic recovery Thursday as the world's largest retailer reported lackluster sales for the last three months.
Sales grew slower than expected as the retailer said consumers reined in spending and traded down to lower-priced products. Wal-Mart cut its forecast for profits and sales for the year.
Profits rose slightly to $4.07bn in the quarter ending July 31 from $4.02bn a year earlier. But sales at US stores open at least a year – a key retail measure – fell 0.3%, their fifth consecutive decline. "The customer remains challenged," Walmart US president Bill Simon said.
Chief financial officer Charles Holley said: "The retail environment remains challenging in the US and our international markets, as customers are cautious in their spending." . . .
Walmart's explanation?
Retailer blames higher payroll taxes and fuel costs for consumers' increased caution despite positive economic outlook . . .  
Sears and Kmart have also been suffering, but the pattern is interesting in that online sales are rising.
-- Domestic comparable store sales declined 3.6% in the first quarter of 2013, as much of the country experienced a cooler spring than last year. Sears Canada's comparable store sales declined 2.6% in the quarter; 
-- Our online business on sears.com and kmart.com grew 20% over the prior year first quarter 
Meanwhile, Amazon's online sales also increased by a similar 22% during the first quarter, though profits were down.

All this makes one think that internet sales are substituting for brick and mortar stores.

Left wingers, such as the Daily Beast, have another bizarre theory that Walmart's sales are low because they aren't paying workers enough.
They’re just not shopping more at Walmart. . . .  Now, there are several explanations for this. Consumers could be hampered by the rise in the payroll tax. Or people who used to shop at Walmart may be choosing to shop elsewhere. I prefer a simpler solution.
People tend to shop with the wages they earn. . . .
The biggest problem in the economy is the refusal of companies, now in the fifth year of this expansion, to boost wages broadly. The rich are continuing to do well. But the typical worker just isn’t getting a meaningful wage. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, average hourly earnings for workers in the private sector have risen by a scant 1.9 percent in the past 12 months. Quarter after quarter, corporate America collectively puts up big profits, buys back shares, rewards executives handsomely, pays dividends—and then effectively freezes wages. And then executives at stores that cater to the bottom half of the income ladder wonder why nobody shows up. “Where are all the consumers?” read a plaintive email from a Walmart executive earlier this year. “And where is all their money?” . . . Walmart prefers to blame external factors for its woes. 
If higher wages generated more profits for Walmart, would you have to pass a law to force them to pay the higher wages?  Walmart unilaterally paying more wages won't increase overall sales.  What it will do is increase the prices of its products.  If higher wages got more productivity from the workers, Walmart would surely take that into account in their decision.



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