Retail sales data will look a bit different without Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) is the world's largest retailer. It is also one of the largest sellers of all types of consumer goods ranging from CDs to household appliances to sporting equipment. But none of this will be reflected in today's monthly retail sales reports.

Last month, the Bentonville, Ark.-based company stunned Wall Street when it announced that it would no longer issue monthly sales reports so that it could focus on managing the company for the long-term. Like my colleague Zac Bissonnette, I think Wal-Mart made the right move. For a company the size of Wal-Mart -- the largest private employer in the U.S. -- to try and manage investors' expectations for a 30-day period is insane. I would argue that it probably does not make sense for smaller retailers to operate that way either.

So, for the first time ever, Wal-Mart's figures will not be included in the retail data, though every other company that reports will continue to do so. The outlook was decidedly mixed.

Costco Wholesale Corp. (COST) reported a seven percent decline in same store sales while children's clothing retailer Childrens Place Retail Stores Inc. (PLCE) had a worse-than-expected drop of nine percent in the key metric followed by investors. Walgreen Co. (WAG) and Buckle Inc. (BKE) were among the gainers. Reuters noted that many companies missed Wall Street expectations.

Wal-Mart can get away with not reporting monthly sales figures -- because it's Wal-Mart. Smaller companies probably can't risk offending Wall Street analysts as they struggle with tight credit markets. Their businesses continue to be on shaky ground. Retail sales are also expected to have their first annual decline in three decades, according to the National Retail Federation.

If the economy does not improve dramatically, expect more retailers to follow Wal-Mart's lead. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart, which plans to hire about 22,000 people, will continue to gain market share at its competitors' expense, as it's done for years.
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