US retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc Thursday
blamed disappointing first-quarter sales on bad weather and higher
income taxes that have caused its customers to tighten their purse
Retail sales in the United States, by far Wal-Mart's largest market, fell 1.4 per cent year-on-year in the quarter, which ended April 30, and came in below the company's forecasts, which had predicted flat sales.
The world's largest retailer, which operates about 3,700 superstores in the US, said it had been hit by delayed tax refund cheques, which meant customers had less money to spend.
A 2-per-cent increase in payroll taxes also hit consumer spending.
Wal-Mart's stock fell in pre-market trading on the news.
The company's results were shored up by its international outlets, which helped overall sales to increase 1 per cent to 114 billion dollars (88.6 billion euros).
Profits were up by the same amount, to 3.8 billion dollars.
The company said it expected US sales to pick up this quarter.
"The second quarter is off to a good start," Wal-Mart's US president, Bill Simon, said at company headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas.
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