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Stung by weather, profit at Walmart drops 5%

President Obama spoke to Walmart employees in Mountain View, Calif., recently.
President Obama spoke to Walmart employees in Mountain View, Calif., recently.Jeff Chiu /Associated Press

Walmart reported a disappointing quarter Thursday, with profit down and sales at its US stores essentially flat. The retailer joined a growing chorus of companies partly blaming the unusually harsh winter weather for performance.

“Like other retailers in the United States, the unseasonably cold and disruptive weather negatively impacted US sales and drove operating expenses higher than expected,” C. Douglas McMillon, Walmart Stores Inc.’s chief executive, said in a statement.

Sales for the first quarter increased only 0.8 percent and the company’s profit fell 5 percent over the same period last year. The retailer earned $3.6 billion or $1.10 a share, down from $3.8 billion or $1.14 a year ago.

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Walmart’s core customers tend to be people with lower incomes, and that segment of the population has struggled throughout the slow, uneven economic recovery. In February, William S. Simon, chief executive of Walmart US, said that cuts to the federal food stamps program had negatively affected the company’s results.

During the quarter, traffic in Walmart’s US stores fell 1.4 percent, a problem Walmart has reported in several recent quarters. Sales at its smaller Neighborhood Market stores that have been open for at least a year, however, grew 5 percent.

This quarter was only the latest in a run of fairly disappointing earnings reports for Walmart. In its previous quarter, which included the crucial holiday shopping season, Walmart’s profit was down 21 percent from the same period the year before, and traffic in its US locations dropped 1.7 percent.

During its last fiscal year, Walmart’s total revenue rose 1.6 percent to $476 billion.