Wal-mart’s plan to absorb food prices hits gains

WAL-MART’S decision to absorb rising food costs for its stressed US shoppers has weighed on profitability, the firm admitted yesterday, even as key US sales rose for the first time in more than two years.

Wal-mart, the US grocery giant that owns Asda, said sales at stores open more than a year rose a higher-than-expected 1.3 per cent in the three months to the end of October, ending a string of nine straight quarterly declines.

But visits to stores were once again down from a year earlier, even as shoppers spent more per visit.

Walmart US held off on raising prices as much as it could to appeal to cost-conscious shoppers.

The group earned $3.34bn (£2.1bn) from continuing operations in the third quarter, slightly shy of forecasts, and compared with $3.44bn a year earlier when a tax benefit lifted earnings.

Net sales rose by 8.2 per cent to $109.5bn.