Walmart top executives admit they can't predict 'puzzling' consumer behavior in 2024

Walmart’stop executives said Wednesday consumer behavior would be tougher to predict next year as financial strain pushes customers to be more cautious about spending their dollars.

The retail bellwether saw “anomalous type of behavior” from customers which “made us sit up in our chair” about the health of the consumer and what the purchasing behavior was, Chief Financial Officer John David Rainey said at the Morgan Stanley Global Consumer & Retail Conference.

About spending in the last two weeks of October being off trend compared to prior months, Rainey said it was “puzzling,” but the retailer did not intend to be “alarmist” in any way.

Walmart’s stock had dropped 8% on Nov. 16 when the company first hinted at October spending during its quarterly earnings.

Rainey at the conference also added that there is nothing “about what we have seen in the consumer” and deflationary pricing that makes the retailer rethink its long-term plans.

Earlier on Wednesday, CEO Doug McMillon in an interview with CNBC said rising credit card balances and dwindling household bank accounts do raise questions about how much consumers would be spending.

Last month, Walmart had said that US consumers were acting more cautious with spending during the holiday season.

But data on Thanksgiving weekend showed that deep discounts on everything from beauty products and toys to electronics lured shoppers tospendbringing a relief to worried retailers.