New York -- Analysts had already suggested that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. would report weakened sales in February, as its primary customer base felt the pinch of newly increased payroll taxes. But internal emails leaked to the press confirmed the impending bad news.
Bloomberg on Friday quoted an email generated by a Wal-Mart mid-level executive as saying that the retailer had the worst sales start to any month in seven years in February. Wal-Mart blames the slow start to the 2% payroll increase as well as on delayed tax returns.
"In case you haven't seen a sales report these days, February (month-to-date) sales are a total disaster," Jerry Murray, a Wal-Mart VP who works on finance in the U.S. logistics division, said in a Feb. 12 email to other executives, Bloomberg reported. "The worst start to a month I have seen in my (about) seven years with the company."
Also announced on Friday by Cleveland Research, Wal-Mart’s U.S. sales have slowed significantly over the past three to four weeks, and its first quarter same-store sales were already running negative.
Wal-Mart is slated to report first-quarter earnings on Thursday and has not pre-reported any sales figures.
Bloomberg did ask for a formal statement from Wal-Mart about the contents of the leaked email, and spokesman David Tovar responded, "As with any organization, we often see internal communications that are not entirely accurate, that lack the proper context and represent individual opinions."