What Walmart Is Doing Right | The Motley Fool (2023)

In this podcast, Motley Fool analyst Bill Barker and host Deidre Woollard discuss:

  • Whether Walmart is learning from grocers or grocers are learning from Walmart.
  • If an Aldi acquisition will spell the end of the beloved Winn-Dixie brand.
  • Why Amazon has struggled with getting groceries right.

To catch full episodes of all The Motley Fool's free podcasts, check out our podcast center. To get started investing, check out our quick-start guide to investing in stocks. A full transcript follows the video.

10 stocks we like better thanWalmart

Whenour analyst team has an investing tip, it can pay to listen. After all, the newsletter they have run for over a decade, Motley Fool Stock Advisor, has tripled the market.*

Theyjust revealed what they believe are theten best stocks for investors to buy right now... and Walmart wasn't one of them! That's right -- they think these 10 stocks are even better buys.

See the 10 stocks

*Stock Advisor returns as ofMM/DD/YYYY

This video was recorded on Aug. 17, 2023

Deidre Woollard: The grocery wars are on. Motley Fool Money starts now. Welcome to Motley Fool Money. I'm Deidre Woollard here with Bill Barker. Bill, how are you today?

Bill Barker: I'm well. Thanks for asking.

Deidre Woollard: I do hear it, we're wrapping up retail week here with Walmart. For me, it's the biggest bellwether. On the show yesterday, we had Jason Moser, Dylan Lewis. They talked Target. The news was not so great for Target, but Walmart delivered today. Literally in this case, and not only were comparable sales up 6.4% but e-commerce was up 24%. It feels like it's been a bit of a long journey for Walmart and e-commerce, but I don't know. I think they may have figured it out. What do you think?

Bill Barker: Yeah. Up 24% is an awfully good number and supportive of the continued growth here, the opportunities that they have are somewhat later to the game than they might have been, but that just gives them more room to grow from here.

Deidre Woollard: I feel like the jet.com thing, when that happened, that there was a lot of, like, that's a lot of money to pay, but eventually, it all worked out.

Bill Barker: I think it's the future, it's the present. They were about one step in the past for a while. They're behind the game on e-commerce, but I don't think that, going forward, they're going to be anything other than a major player.

Deidre Woollard: I'm excited to see how much their membership has grown as well. They're not prime yet, but I can't count them out either.

Bill Barker: They're not prime.

Deidre Woollard: [laughs]

Bill Barker: I hope, but they're doing just about everything right right now. It's reflective in the stock, which was hitting all-time highs last week. They sold off a little bit today, despite the good earnings report and upgraded guidance. A lot of good news, but when you're at an all-time high, then maybe you are just happy to stay close to it after you've reported earnings.

Deidre Woollard: This season has been interesting with good results, and then the market is maybe not such a big fan. But I think one of the differences between Walmart and Target is grocery. Walmart is the biggest grocer, around 25% of the market share, depending on who you talk to. We all go to Walmart for groceries, I think, or at least some of us do, but it's not the greatest grocery experience I've ever had. But I am noticing that there have been improvements lately. Anecdotally, at my local Walmart, I'm seeing more prepared meals. I'm seeing a bigger variety of produce. I think they've got some advantages over other grocers that make it more profitable because, really, they've got the whole rest of the store to play with, but is it learning from other grocers that are stepping up their game?

Bill Barker: I think that, with 25% of the market, which is I think about as big as the next four biggest grocery operations in the country, everybody is learning from Walmart. They do have the opportunity to sell a lot of things beyond groceries, when people come in for groceries, which they're doing on a more frequent basis, in a recurring basis, in a loyal basis to Walmart. Walmart has picked up some ideas on loyalty and things from the other operators that have been doing this for a lot longer. But at this point, I don't think that Walmart is the one that is learning from them as much as they are from Walmart.

Deidre Woollard: Interesting. The other side of that for growth is health and wellness. On the earnings call, one of the things I thought was interesting was that they talked about the role of GLP-1 drugs, so that's the prescription drugs that are the hottest thing right now, the Wegovy, Ozempic, the ones that treat diabetes and increasingly treat weight loss. I think the pharmacy aspect of Walmart is interesting because Target took a different approach. They outsourced their pharmacy to CVS. Walmart has kept everything in-house. It's starting to look like an even greater player with some of their health initiatives. But what do you think of these two strategies? Target, it loves its partnerships, Ulta Beauty, Starbucks, CVS. Walmart, they don't do that. What are some of the pros and cons there?

Bill Barker: The pros for Walmart is they get to keep more of the money.

Deidre Woollard: Yes. That does help.

Bill Barker: If you can do it efficiently and do it profitably, keeping the money is what you want to do. They've got the space to do it, and I think that they don't have the same problem at times that Target does with figuring out how to control the brand. That is, Target is trying to sell a more upscale feel to the experience while still providing competitive prices, and Walmart is price-first and very proudly so. Now I think it's a nice operation to be able to sell about a quarter of all the food in the country and to sell ways to lose weight.

Deidre Woollard:They got you from both ends.

Bill Barker: It's like that omnipresent company in the WALL-E movie back in the day from Pixar. They do everything, and I think that this just allows them to both sell more food and more ways to lose the fat that you might pick up from eating too much of Walmart's or anybody else's food.

Deidre Woollard: When you factor in the clinics as well, they didn't talk a lot on this earnings call about their initiatives in clinics and things like that, but it's becoming a bigger part of things as well, and you just mentioned a good point, which is Walmart has so much square footage that they get to be a little bit flexible. With the e-commerce thing, they've reconfigured some of their stores. They're using less of the floor space for actual people in the grocery store because there are sometimes less of them, using more of it for faster delivery and things like that. Do you think that, over time, we'll see Walmart keep the same footprint but change up how it uses it?

Bill Barker: I think that Walmart's strategy has been to take up more and more space, to go less in on the centers that are not super centers. They're more and more all the groceries and all the stuff and that's where the focus has been rather than more urban locations which are not maybe offering grocery as well, so they're really not looking to create smaller experiences. They've got lots of space that allows them to try things with part of that space when some of the operations are falling behind other parts. I don't see any problem with Walmart continuing to build extremely large operations or expand the smaller ones when they can.

Deidre Woollard: They've got those, the ones that are branded neighborhood market. They take on small space, but I don't think it's a huge part of the business at this point.

Bill Barker: No, and it's not where the emphasis of the future of the company is going to be, I don't think.

Deidre Woollard: I would agree with that. I want to talk for a second about a company that isn't publicly traded. I'm starting to wish it was. It was in the news. Aldi, they made a big deal yesterday. They're picking up about 400 Winn-Dixie and Harveys Markets from Southeastern Grocers, which seems to be divesting everything. It's an all-cash transaction. This seems big to me for Aldi, a move from the discount grocery, weird grocery, to really more traditional. Aldi is an interesting story. Their growth has been huge. In the beginning was Aldi and Lidl. Now it's more Aldi all the way. They're on track to reach 2400 stores in the US by the end of the year. Now they've got these other stores. I think they're going to keep them branded as Winn-Dixies and Harveys, but who knows? Is Aldi making a serious run at traditional grocery now?

Bill Barker: Away from, as you put it, weird grocery?

Deidre Woollard: [laughs] Discount grocery. But you've been to an Aldi, right? It's a little weird.

Bill Barker: I've been. I think that they've got a lot of options here if the deal goes through, and that is one, to keep the brands where they are. But also I think a significant number of them are going to be converted to Aldi, and it's going to depend on how loyal the customers are. Pretty loyal to Winn-Dixie, generations of shoppers in the southeast have grown up with Winn-Dixie and don't want to see it go, and Aldi is intelligent enough to discern which of the locations should not be rebranded and keep the Winn-Dixie name, but they'll probably include a few more of Aldi's selections. I think that a lot of them are going to convert to Aldi though.

Deidre Woollard: It'd be a shame. It's like a 100-year-old brand. I think Winn-Dixie is. It's a tradition.

Bill Barker: It is a tradition. There's no plan, as I understand from the reports, to change all of them. But Aldi is a much more successful operation than Winn-Dixie is. Now that's got to do with the management, and I think that this is part of expanding Aldi in that geography and without eliminating the brands are acquiring. There is some brand strength there, but let's face it. There's not that much brand strength there or this wouldn't be a company that went bankrupt as frequently as it did.

Deidre Woollard: Good point. I think the other thing that's interesting about this too is, Aldi is increasing their distribution centers. I think they're opening their 26th one in Alabama. They're going after the market where Winn-Dixie already have the strength in the South.

Bill Barker: I think this is a great expansion in terms of the geography. Again, if it goes through, not everything goes through. Not everything that's announced necessarily gets to fruition. I think that we'll see who rises up against this.

Deidre Woollard: Well, let's talk about that because there is another big deal in big grocery and it's just going on and on, and that's Kroger's $25 billion deal to acquire Albertsons. That has seen a lot of pushback from some of the unions, and earlier this week, seven secretaries of state, they asked the FTC to block the deal. If that deal doesn't happen, does that mean maybe the Aldi deal doesn't happen either?

Bill Barker: They're separate deals, and I think that Winn-Dixie is more in need of aid than Albertsons was. A world in which Albertsons and Kroger's continue on their way, nobody really suffers from that. The combination is going to work for some small efficiencies that Kroger's would realize. If this deal doesn't go through, I think you'd just continue to watch the decline of Winn-Dixie and Harvey's as they have already shuttered a lot of operations. I think that the Aldi deal were more likely to go through. FTC is willing to listen to anybody that wants a deal blocked. [laughs] It is a sympathetic year to that cry. These days, not just in the tech space, but as we see also in grocery.

Deidre Woollard: Well, I feel like with the Kroger Albertson's deal, if it doesn't go through, it's not great for Kroger, but I don't think it's going to hurt Kroger. I think it's more likely to hurt Albertsons. That's really the loser in that, I think.

Bill Barker: Yeah. Usually when you're selling, you're selling for a good price.

Deidre Woollard: Yes, for a good reason.

Bill Barker: At least in management's opinion, a good price. I would agree, if this falls through, then Albertsons is the stock that you would not want to be along with?

Deidre Woollard: I like Kroger in general. Some of the digital initiatives they've done are interesting. They've got an innovation center. They seem to be testing out some things that I like. My it's hard for them. They're competing against the Walmarts of the world, and that is not an easy thing to do.

Bill Barker: No. Walmart is exceptional operator and grocery is a very low margin business, survive on scale largely, although there are plenty of small operations in cities and things that are still mom and pop shops. But they tend to survive until mom and pop let them go and aren't dozens of buyers looking for those operations afterwards. I think that Kroger is going to be around and competing well, lots of loyal fans. They're still dozens of brands around the country that have got their 2, 3, 1% in different geographies. Kroger does a lot better than that. Of course, as does Albertsons. The combination would provide a decent competitor to Walmart, still much smaller but closer to it than anybody else.

Deidre Woollard: I think it's consolidation is absolutely part of the story because as you mentioned, small towns increasingly have less and less of those grocery stores. There's more Walmarts, more Dollar General. Dollar General is now trying to do something that looks a little more like traditional grocery store. Question I have is, you just mentioned the margins. Grocery is this tricky business, it's this low-margin business, and yet it's one amazon really wants to get right and doesn't quite seem to get right because it's trying Amazon Fresh and it's been retooling those stores. I think just laid off a bunch of workers. Some of those stores are closing. On the other hand, they're trying to push fresh delivery, allowing non-Prime members to order Amazon. When at grocery outside of whole foods of course, as investors, do we need it too or want it too?

Bill Barker: I'm not sure if cyclically we we want it too. From this perspective, has anything changed less in the last 50 years that is as central to the life experience as grocery shopping. It is basically the same as when I was being taken to the grocery store by my mother, 50 some years ago. It looks awfully similar. You go to whole foods or you go to their more fresh counters. There's this sushi operation there. Some of the time, you can get some piece. But the middle of the store, which is where most of this stuff is being sold, is almost identical to what it was 50 years ago. You do occasionally choose to use self-checkout. But the rest of the experiences is very similar to what it was 50 years ago. Amazon wants to reimagine it and nobody's along for the ride yet. Webvan came and went 25 years ago. They were going to revolutionize. They were going to be the Amazon of grocery delivery. That's just not how people are continuing to get their groceries, are they? A little bit.

Deidre Woollard: I don't know because I'm not sure. One of the things I always check for myself as an investor is my age. Is it an age thing? I talk to a lot of younger people and a lot of younger people don't go to the grocery store anymore. They're full-on delivery. I think one of the things that's interesting about being all delivery is that most of your experience doesn't come from the end caps or things like that anymore. You're not having the discovery part of it in a physical way. You're having the discovery of it in an online way, so really changes the game a bit.

Bill Barker: It depends how much fresh produce you're getting.

Deidre Woollard: That can be an unfortunate experience.

Bill Barker: How much import you put on selecting that yourself. Whether you want to just take a shot on whoever delivers it to you, chooses the same way you would have chosen. It is just, to me, the case that Amazon has been working on this for a long time. It's not just grocery. They haven't succeeded on any physical locations. Amazon Books, Amazon Go.

Deidre Woollard: They've tried fashion.

Bill Barker: Amazon Fashion or whatever all these things are, are not things that have delivered the Amazon superior operations to a physical location. There're tests, and Amazon is perfectly willing to burn some money on testing something that might turn out to be big. They don't go in huge on these things, but none of them have grown, have they?

Deidre Woollard: Not really. Grocery is trickier than it looks.

Bill Barker: Apparently, nobody has really changed the things that much. Walmart is the biggest changing grocery in the last 40 years.

Deidre Woollard: They just keep going. Well, thank you for your time today, Bill.

Bill Barker: Thank you.

Deidre Woollard: As always, people on the program may have interest in the stocks they talk about, and the Motley Fool may have formal recommendations for or against, so don't buy or sell stocks based solely on what you hear. I'm Deidre Woollard. Thanks for listening. We'll see you tomorrow.

John Mackey, former CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Bill Barker has positions in Starbucks. Deidre Woollard has positions in Amazon.com, CVS Health, Dollar General, and Walmart. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com, CVS Health, Kroger, Starbucks, Target, Ulta Beauty, and Walmart. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Rueben Jacobs

Last Updated: 01/07/2023

Views: 5658

Rating: 4.7 / 5 (57 voted)

Reviews: 80% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Rueben Jacobs

Birthday: 1999-03-14

Address: 951 Caterina Walk, Schambergerside, CA 67667-0896

Phone: +6881806848632

Job: Internal Education Planner

Hobby: Candle making, Cabaret, Poi, Gambling, Rock climbing, Wood carving, Computer programming

Introduction: My name is Rueben Jacobs, I am a cooperative, beautiful, kind, comfortable, glamorous, open, magnificent person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.