As Rest of Retail Stagnates, Ecommerce is Hot. And what Walmart Said about this Phenomenon

Walmart US online sales +22%. It credits “convenience” of ecommerce for its success in attracting higher income customers.

By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

Ecommerce sales in Q1 jumped by 8.6% year-over-year, to a record $289 billion seasonally adjusted. The rest of retail trade sales, not including ecommerce, ticked up only 0.3% to $1.53 trillion, according to data from the Census Bureau today. For the four-quarter period, ecommerce sales rose to $1.12 trillion.

Over the four years since the start of the pandemic, ecommerce sales have exploded by 90%, while the rest of retail trade sales (not including ecommerce) have increased by only 26%.

Quarter to quarter, ecommerce sales rose by 2.1% from Q4, seasonally adjusted, while the rest of retail trade sales, without ecommerce, fell 0.5%.

The share of ecommerce sales rose to 15.9%, the highest since the lockdown miracle of Q2 2020, as ecommerce continues to eat an ever-bigger slice of the retail pie:

The rest of retail trade sales without ecommerce has close-to-stagnated for nearly two years, after the pandemic spike, despite inflation and population growth. In Q1, sales rose only 0.3% year-over-year to $1.53 trillion, seasonally adjusted.

In a moment, we’re going to get to Walmart – the second largest ecommerce retailer in the US, but far behind Amazon – which reported earnings yesterday. Ecommerce sales at Walmart US soared by 22%, and without ecommerce sales, comp sales would have inched up only 1%, reflecting reality on the ground:

And here are sales at brick-and-mortar department stores. They do not include the ecommerce sales by those chains. There are only a handful of department store chains left, such as Macy’s. Over the past eight years, scores have been liquidated in bankruptcy court. J.C. Penney got bought out of bankruptcy by the biggest mall landlords so that they wouldn’t sit on vacant anchor stores. This illustrates an aspect of the phenomenon we have come to call Brick-and-Mortar Meltdown since 2016:

Part of retail has been sheltered from ecommerce attacks, but changes are underway:

  • Gas stations (for obvious reasons)
  • Food and beverage stores (but losing some ground to online sales)
  • New-vehicle dealers (protected by state franchise laws except for Tesla and a few EV startups)
  • Used vehicle dealers (still to some extent, because many people want to test-drive a used vehicle before buying).

Changes are coming, but they’re slow. Gas stations are slowly losing ground to EVs. People are becoming more open to buying groceries online. New vehicle dealers are protected from ecommerce competition by state franchise laws, but Tesla found a way around it in a majority of states and can sell direct to consumers in those states, while other EV startups are also trying to get around the state franchise laws. Used vehicle sales have already begun to migrate to ecommerce, with all the largest used vehicle dealers growing their ecommerce sales, including used-vehicle dealers that are strictly online.

What Walmart said about ecommerce.

Walmart US ecommerce sales jumped by 22% in Q1, Walmart reported yesterday in its quarterly results.

But comparable sales, which include ecommerce, rose 3.8%. Ecommerce contributed 280 basis points to the 3.8% growth, Walmart said. In other words, without its booming ecommerce sales, comp sales would have grown only 1.0%.

What’s working at Walmart’s stores are grocery sales. Walmart has become the largest grocery store in the US. Without food sales, and without ecommerce sales, Q1 comp sales at Walmart US would have likely declined.

“When I think about the headlines from the quarter, what goes through my mind is, first, the ecommerce growth. I think the progress we’re making on convenience for customers is a big deal, and that’s happening through our store fulfillment as well as through fulfillment centers,” CEO Doug McMillon said during the earnings call (transcript via Seeking Alpha).

“The categories that are really strong that are standing out is apparel and fashion online,” Walmart said during the earnings call. This might be a surprise to many who thought that apparel and fashion would never work online – but now buying apparel and fashion online is standard for many people.

“More often, our customers are finding what they’re looking for when they shop our app or site. Ecommerce penetration is up in all our markets,” Walmart said.

Ecommerce sales were also credited with attracting higher-income people to spend money at Walmart. The theme Walmart hammered home for ecommerce was “convenience.” The word “convenience” came up 10 times during the earnings call. The executives hammered at it every chance they got. Ecommerce is all about convenience – and that has a lot of value for higher income people.

“If you look at what’s happened historically, people with higher incomes have shopped Walmart. They’ve just been selective in the categories they buy and the items they buy. So if we offer them the right items at the right prices…, they’ll respond to that. And so, as we’ve been able to expand our assortment online, we can appeal to more people. And then you layer on the convenience dimension and you get a good outcome,” Walmart said.

“In terms of what we’re doing to be more attractive to that higher income household, this is really the story or the word we’ve been using here, is convenience. We are not just a play for value anymore,” Walmart said.

“We also introduced on-demand early morning delivery to customer doorsteps as early as 7 a.m. and as quickly as 30 minutes…. In Walmart U.S., over the last 12 months, 4.4 billion items were delivered same or next day, with about 20% of those delivered in under three hours. Delivery times are getting faster, and the cost of delivery is coming down at the same time,” Walmart said.

“We talked about the number of units that we’ve shipped in the last 12 months, which is on par with any ecommerce player in the world. That shows that customers are coming to us…. And convenience matters to someone irrespective of what your payback is, irrespective of what your income level is,” Walmart said. Walmart figured out ecommerce.

Enjoy reading WOLF STREET and want to support it? You can donate. I appreciate it immensely. Click on the beer and iced-tea mug to find out how:

Would you like to be notified via email when WOLF STREET publishes a new article? Sign up here.

  105 comments for “As Rest of Retail Stagnates, Ecommerce is Hot. And what Walmart Said about this Phenomenon

  1. Clykke says:

    I’ve seen Walmart+ membership is an increasingly offered perk with Amex cards, it is now offered on their Platinum and business Gold. Given Amex customers tend to skew higher income, I wouldn’t be surprised if schemes like these were behind some of the increase.

    • joedidee says:

      I see a LOT of tenants getting uber eats, grubhub, groceries delivered

      seems % have means, others do not

      • Home toad says:

        I’ll take a large pizza please.

        Did you know that Walmart has 170 thousand personal shoppers working for them….
        These are the people racing about the isles in the oversized carts collecting the delivery orders . Then they bring the orders out and load them into the vehicles of a 3rd party delivery service called sparks.
        I remember when their were no personal shoppers no door greeters, just me and my bag of chips. Then one day their was this old person standing at the door.

        • Anthony A. says:

          There’s a young handicapped person with a stand up walker at the door greeting people at the Walmart near me.

        • Home toad says:

          That’s one thing I like about Walmart, they’ll try and find a spot for you, green hair purple, himherhe, tattoos everywhere, no English, rotten teeth, 100 yrs old… Come on down.
          And their business model can’t be beat…go figure.

        • joedidee says:

          actually the door greaters are there on lookout for theft
          some stores check nearly everyone
          I have receipt in hand with wally mart bags
          they waive me thru

  2. Bobber says:

    Maybe it’s getting too convenient. I just heard people are ordering the same clothing item in several different sizes and colors, and they plan to return 50-90% of what they buy. Who is paying for that convenience, additional packaging, admin, etc?

    I wish they’d start charging those people extra for this type of convenience. Not fair to raise everybody’s prices.

    • Gabe says:

      Seems like it comes with the territory if you’re trying to sell apparel online. The extra shipping cost probably mostly balances out.

      • Wolf Richter says:

        People have always bought clothes and returned them. That goes for gifts too. Back in the day before internet, girls would brag about buying a cocktail dress for just one party and then return them the next day. That’s just human nature. Except today, you don’t have to drive to the store to return this stuff.

        • ApartmentInvestor says:

          When I was in College I knew people that bought and returned stuff after wearing it and also multiple kids who worked at Nordstrom who had to deal with taking back the cocktail dress and blazers they knew was worn to an event (since they often smelled like smoke in the 80’s since you could still smoke inside in CA back then). Today they have a company called “Rent the Runway” that my wife and her friends use to rent dresses to wear to weddings and formal black and white tie events.

    • MM says:

      Fundanentally, the problem with returns isn’t the returns themselves. It that customers want to be able to return things, but also don’t want to buy returned things themselves.

      • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

        MM – the unfailing, eternal human belief in ‘free lunch’ (or the ease of donning designer-blinders)…

        may we all find a better day.

  3. Bs ini says:

    My daughter started online grocery just this last week using Kroger

    • SoCalBeachDude says:

      Kroger can’t even ring up and finalize an online grocery sale, and has no system at all of any competence fulfilling orders. Sad.

      • RD Blakeslee says:

        My experience is exactly the opposite.

        Ever since the COVID 19 lockdowns, I have been buying all my groceries at Krogers, online. Their website is among the easiest to use that I have encountered.

        Since I’ve gotten too old to walk very far but can still drive, their service is now essential to my being able to remain living at home.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      We were among the diehards that thought we would always buy produce and fish at a brick-and-mortar store because we wanted to see them.

      But we’re now buying all of our Asian food online, and while at it, we’re getting a bunch of other stuff from the site. Fresh super-quality veggies that you cannot find in regular stores (straight from the Central Valley), frozen fish and chilled marinated fish that you cannot find except in distant specialty stores, etc.

      It’s funny how that goes. You try it once for some oddball reason, have a good experience, and switch permanently.

      • Think Fast, Go Slow says:

        Temu is a good example of this. My friends (and their kids, Gen Z and Gen Alpha) swear by Temu. I ignored it for a while, but then order some stuff for fun. Pleasantly, pleasantly surprised by the quality and speed for the cost. Good price, good quality, takes longer to get, I can live with it.

        I was thinking how can these Dollar stores survive against the same merch from Temu. Also, Shein is another company I would keep on eye on. They are going to wreck fast fashion, as we know it. Maybe, put it on the watch list of imploding stocks when/if it goes IPO.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          “how can these Dollar stores survive against the same merch from Temu.”

          They’re having a hard time. Two big chains went bankrupt this year.

        • Bandon says:

          I couldn’t disagree with you more. I bought clothing items three different times at varying points of time and all three times the clothes were were made with complete crap materials. Products all made in China. Amazon is riddled with such products. Over the last three years, I have been returning half the items I bought. All of them made from China. The good thing about Amazon is that you don’t have to wait a long time for items to get to you, they do sell legitimate, known products (Samsung, Sony, Levi), and returns are free of charge. If I know a brand name, like Ariat or Wusthof, I might get a good price and conveniently have it delivered in a couple of days. Temu with its plethora of sweat shop manufactured trash has a loooong way to go to match that. On the flip side, I will say that I used to have good luck with a Pakistani company buying leather jackets. They were made with lambskin, were surprisingly resilient despite the material, very reasonably priced and actually looked good. I haven’t dealt with the company in five years though, and I’ve heard they are out sourcing manufacturing to China now as well, so who knows what they’ve turned into.

      • Publius says:

        I’m glad you’ve had a good experience, perhaps because it’s a specialty store and has to be good quality? When we bought groceries curbside at the height of COVID, we received poor quality fruits and vegetables and expired refrigerated food, including milk. The shopper didn’t have a reason to select anything other than the closest items; in fact, perhaps the store (Kroger) seed an online or curbside shopper as an opportunity to unload the oldest, smallest, poorest quality products. And dry food from Amazon is often beat up (eg, granola bars crumbled into pieces).

      • ApartmentInvestor says:

        We get a box once a week from Marley Spoon (that we like better than ‘Hello Fresh”) with three ready to cook dinners and they rarely have a mistake, but have not had good luck getting what we ordered when we used Instacart, or the Safeway system to get regular groceries (and for us it is easier to shop ourselves than to deal with the problems).

        • Wolf Richter says:


          I’ve heard horror stories about Instacart and I have seen the pickers looking for stuff in the aisles. It’s a horrible business model. I would never ever use them.

          The Asian ecommerce site we use doesn’t have stores. It’s pure ecommerce, never had stores. They had to get it right from day one. They deliver with their own vans and own employees directly from their local fulfillment centers (they also use some contractors that drive their own vehicles, but ours is a regular route driver with a company van). They’re big on the West Coast, and I’m sure you’ve seen their vans. I don’t want to give out their name because I don’t like to do free promos. They’re very big in Chinese and Japanese vegetables, fruit, fish, meat, sauces, spices, etc. – that’s what we look at — but they also have Vietnamese, Korean, Filipino, and Indian food. In addition, you can get regular stuff like onions for a lot less than elsewhere. The world is full of amazing vegetables and herbs, grown right here in the Central Valley.

  4. Tater says:

    A lot of people like to hate on WalMart, but they have refused to rest on their laurels and have continued to innovate. Years ago, Sears took over a year to bring a new item from a potential idea to being for sale on their shelves. The same process at WalMart was three weeks. Sears is now defunct and WalMart is thriving.
    Now, rather than ceding their business to Amazon, they are leveraging their distribution system and physical presence to beat Amazon at their own game (at least in part).

    Most monolithic companies are much less dynamic than WalMart, and their gradual decline shows it.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      A bunch of years ago, Walmart was still in denial about ecommerce. And then when it feared that it would get eaten by Amazon, it started a massive and very costly change — driven in part by acquisitions, such as for billions of dollars that then flopped. It eventually got it figured out, including the fulfillment of orders. And I agree, it has done a good job with its ecommerce business, after wasting years flailing about.

      It also figured out that food was the (at least temporary) future of brick and mortar, and it made food a huge priority, which was a very smart move.

      The transition to ecommerce was deadly for lots of brick-and-mortar retailers, including the biggest, Sears.

    • Lauren says:

      The thing about Wal Mart has always been that they’re the cheapest but no one actually wants to go to their stores. Now you can get Wal Mart prices without the ‘people of Wal Mart’ experience.

      • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

        Lauren…a great observation about our big, happy, ‘Murican ‘family’ (not only about WalMart, but emanating from all classes, in all directions. Time to re-read Hofer….).

        may we all find a better day.

        • Home toad says:

          I’m sorry,
          I must be off, I enjoy going out and about, shopping at Walmart…think I’ll try pickled pigs feet today. It could be I enjoy a good challenge and Walmart provides that.
          But when my energy is not in sync with the other shoppers, not good. Its like a flock of birds, if one is “off”they all crash into each other, the same with the shoppers.

          May we all find a better day? I’ve found that today is the best day.

          May we all find a horrible day? That is also today.

          Chinese philosopher say: Wife run away, neighbor say “so sorry”, man say, “good news bad news who can say”, wife return with 3 more women, man so happy.

      • Escierto says:

        I try to buy as little as possible from both Amazon and Wal-Mart. I, along with many other people in my neighborhood, only set foot in a Wal-Mart once a year. On Easter Sunday the H-E-B is closed. I probably go to my neighborhood H-E-B once a day. Greatest grocery store chain on the planet!

    • RH says:

      The ‘End the Fed ” bill by Rep. Massie may reduce the inflation that forces working-class, ordinary Americans to shop online, looking for lower prices out of desperation. Hope it passes! Read President Wilson’s comments lamenting his signing the Federal Reserve act (Trojan horse) which has made Americans pay now rich bankers interest on their own (Americans’) printed/created currency! No more crooked-financier, billionaire aristocracy!!!

      • Wolf Richter says:

        Fed whatever, OK, but this “…that forces working-class, ordinary Americans to shop online, looking for lower prices out of desperation” is stupid BS, good lordy.

        • RH says:

          I am mostly online shopping now. Before, years ago, I loved to visit the mall and shop. No more, except to eat lunch.

          Most younger Americans’ (mean) disposable income drops versus older generations per Statistica’s chart and most do not earn as much as reported for average income. 20% of Americans earn eight times as much as the bottom 20% per OECD. Ocean front city dwellers’ salaries are not like most Americans’ lower salaries.

  5. Moderated Glen says:

    Be interesting with Walmarts greater appeal how the Red Circle will fair. Can’t imagine too many winners in this space.

  6. vinyl1 says:

    ECommerce has not yet reached it potential, as new platforms continue to push the envelope. Lower fees for sellers, and lower prices for buyers are the chief attraction. Nobody wants to sell on Amazon, since they take nearly 40% in fees, and the prices for buyers are higher than any other platforms. eBay is still good at 15%, and prices are about 30% below Amazon. But recently, WhatNot came along catering to the youngest crowd, and they’re only charging sellers 8%. If you’re interested in the type of merchandise offered, you can get deals, because when the sellers put something up for auction they have to take whatever anyone bids in 30 seconds.

  7. Fast Eddie says:


    A quick comment and anecdote. Convenience is a huge issue to ordering on line. I’m in a smallish town (about 30k people) so frequently my choice is a 16 mile round trip plus time versus 2 minutes on a website. The other issue with convenience is that so many stores have very little merchandise. Doesn’t encourage shopping when half the shelves are enpty.

    Now the anecdote: about a year ago I needed a hitch pin for a trailer – that’s the small piece of steel rod that holds the hitch on the car to receiver that’s attached to the car. In my town of 30k, I went to 3 full-service hardware stores. No luck. Went to NAPA. Nope. Three Auto Parts stores later I finally found one that was a close approximation to what I needed. At 2x the on-line price. So seven (7!) stores to finally find it. Only bought it as I needed it that day. 20 miles driving and probably 2 hours.

    Retailers can’t sell what they don’t have, and consistent “not having” drives even more e-commerce.

    • neal says:

      Yes, selection selection selection. Online has it all. Driving to a store maybe. This is the primary reason I do online whenever I can. Tired of doing the scavenger hunt and coming up empty.

    • crustyoldprospector says:


  8. Gary says:

    E-commerce is nothing new, it is the same thing as the Sears. Montgomery Ward and Spiegel catalog of the 1960s. For “google” style product searches there was a library’s set of Thomas Registers. The telephone gave e connectivity and the US mail was e mail. However, none of that affected inflation. Prices will go up with money printing regardless of the market type.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      The 400 hp 4×4 crew-cab pickup truck with adoptive cruise control and dynamic hitch assist is nothing new either because horse-drawn carriages did the same thing? You people crack me up 🤣❤️

  9. eg says:

    I hardly ordered anything online before the pandemic, but I use it a lot now — there’s no going back to 2019.

  10. dang says:

    I submit that e-commerce wouldn’t have been possible without the product introduction model provided, free of charge to Amazon who was allowed to sell the same product, on-line, tax free.

    The concept of Amazon, to me, having grown up an American blue collared kid facing going to Vietnam or finding a more progressive agenda of life.

    The last thing I would hope for would be

  11. Vic says:

    Most retail locations don’t stock nearly what they used to. I’ve grown tired of several facets of online shopping – having to wait (even a day), having to tear down all the shipping boxes and packing and drag them out to recycling, and not being able to look at an item before buying it.

    I’ve tried to purchase things at big box stores lately but can almost never find what I need in stock. Even if their app says it’s in stock, it’s often missing from the shelf and many items are simply not stocked anymore. We’re forced to buy most things online these days.

    • Home toad says:

      In the old days we would go out to get something to eat with our spear, bow and arrow, gun, etc. lucky sometimes to find anything to kill, maybe a rabbit, a woodchuck, opossum, squirrel. If you didn’t find anything to eat you would get skinny and die.
      But now we want our food delivered to our front door, chopped up-wrapped up into perfect pieces, nice and fresh and we want it now…preferably with some wine and a dinner salad and soft music.

      As the blood of the woodchuck drips off my chin I think of how civilized and advanced we’ve become.

      • OutsideTheBox says:


        I see the comments have gone from screaming mad hate screeds to……… goofy.

        Guess that is progress……

    • MussSyke says:

      You’re talking about Home Depot, aren’t you? Yes, that’s the one place I still want to go to look at stuff and see how all the pieces fit together. Annoying they carry less in the store.

      But their online stuff is great. I don’t get used, counterfeit, or other time-wasting shipments like I do with Amazon.

  12. dang says:

    Honestly, the last place I would like to be is as a customer in the big box stores to the extent that I would prefer not to have to been there in the first place.

    Someone should at least comment on the inflation adjusted asset values.

    The Fed is not a good guy. They are a privileged consortium of wealthy people without one day of suffering among them

  13. El Katz says:

    The majority of things I buy at brick and mortar are foodstuffs. Period.

    The rest? Online (with the free returns) is the cat’s pajamas. Clothing goes back and forth – at times. However, I’m not going to drive all over hell’s half acre looking for perfection. Sorry. I’ll order it online. If it fits (or works)? It stays. If it’s unacceptable for a myriad of reason? Back it goes. Odd thing is, some retailers tell you to keep the item and donate it as – apparently – their cost of return shipping exceeds the cost of the product. That’s happened to use twice in the last week with women’s apparel.

    • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

      El K- “…their cost of return shipping exceeds the cost of the product.” (…margin canary-warning…).

      may we all find a better day.

  14. Harrold says:

    Brick and mortar screwed themselves by reducing inventory and product selection. I’m sure some harvard business review said that was a good idea. But then we all got tired of driving around, finding nothing worth buying. Amazon and ebay came along with gargantuan product selection and blew them all away.

    No sympathy for them, since they lowered costs by forcing us all to waste out time.

  15. Oliver Lindsaar says:

    One absolute certainty about online shopping…. it destroys jobs… Retailers close, shops are empty… small towns die

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Yes, there’s some to that.

      But ecommerce has created lots of other jobs, but not retail shop clerks. Amazon has 1.54 million employees. There are Amazon job sites everywhere.

      You can convert small retail spaces into restaurants, cafes, hair salons, bars, etc. Eating and drinking places are much better to socialize in than retail stores. You do need good grocery stores though. And ecommerce isn’t killing them.

    • Buffalo Billion says:

      As Wolf said, there is some truth to this. But retail rarely paid a good salary- it was in many ways the temporary jobs solution while factories were closing. Now we have another transfer of jobs into the “back of house” part of retail. It’s not as glamorous or cool as working in a trendy boutique, but it’s a job.

      We still have high end stores. There is a degree to which shopping is a social activity for those with the time and means. So while Saks, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom may have to consolidate, I assume they will manage to keep a few stores open. But, even young people with means tend to save those outings for wedding dress shopping, parties, special events.

      Wouldn’t you rather take a vacation to Hawaii instead of spend all your time on Fifth Avenue? There’s still an allure to glamorous shopping, but not like it used to be. Once upon a time shopping allowed us to dream, now we have reality television, behind the scenes access to the Met Gala, etc. The dream has shifted. And online is so much more convenient than trekking from mall to mall to find the right shirt, color and size. Who has the time for that?

      • Petunia says:

        The allure of luxury shopping is dead for the aspirational customer due to the obscene price increases. A popular handbag now costs as much as a car or house down payment. Even the rich can’t justify the prices anymore and are buying the fakes instead. If you wait, it will all be at the outlets in a couple of months.

    • Freewary says:

      Destroying jobs is good, wonderful actually.

      How would you like to be a breaker boy?

  16. dang says:

    As I contemplate my testimony, really, about my brother who recently, passed away, without giving me fair warning ,

    I have been asked to talk about how it was to grow up with such a large personality.

    He was who he was.

  17. Pants_Explosion says:

    Hey Wolf, I’ve noticed that when I compare your reports to “Doomsday twitter,” there is a surprising amount of public buy-in to skewed stories being posted, designed to get people invested into one narrative or another.

    Then I read Wolf Street, and I notice there’s lots of nuance and layers to these 2-dimensional scary stories.

    Does it ever worry you that as vast swaths of people whole-heartedly consume half-true doomsday stories, that voting and public policy will start to be dictated by curated ignorance, rather than fact?

    • Pants_Explosion says:

      For example, on Twitter and Reddit, most folks believe Corporate Landlords own 99.9999999% of ALL houses.

      Whereas you inform us that they only own something like… was it 0.3% of them? Even if it’s 3% of all housing, the general public is convinced it’s more than half. This epidemic of poorly founded opinions can’t be a good recipe for the future.

      • Pants_Relief says:

        It’s not lost on me that I can’t remember if it’s 3% or 0.3% and I’m clearly one of the idiots that I’m talking about.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Yes, stuff like that always worries me. So I do my little thing here, that’s all I can do.

      It also worries me that my article would get a million clicks if the title said: “Retail sales collapse because Americans are tapped out and have to eat bugs.” While a nuanced article with facts will be largely ignored by those people.

      Now my new worry is the effect of AI-generated articles, pictures, and videos showing up everywhere. I’m already seeing them. I worry about stuff like that all the time.

    • John H. says:

      “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’ “
      — Issac Asimov, “A Cult of Ignorance,” Newsweek, January 21, 1980

      Suggested antidotes to self-chosen ignorance: reading skepticism and humility.

      • MOFO says:


        I saw a protest sign during a rally on TV. To paraphrase, “We live in the information age where ignorance is a choice”.

      • Moderated Glen says:

        This is one of my favorite quotes but has to be balanced that our country of “free press” is mostly corporate and government propaganda where the messaging starts so young and is so pervasive it is really hard to find the truth. TikTok forced sale is a good example as it is outside the scope of control. AI will of course worsen this as it can pump and dump propaganda that much quicker and far more targeted.

      • NBay says:

        And he never even saw “Duck Dynasty”……or “The Apprentice”.

    • Escierto says:

      I had to laugh at the part that said, “voting and public policy will start to be dictated by curated ignorance”. Start? We are way past starting. In fact I would say we are in the end game.

  18. Biker says:

    There is convenience and there is a huge price for the planet. One day deliveries, ordering many items to return them on purpose, returns destroyed, ordering an item for pennies. Fast fashion, garbage dumps.
    The cost for customers is not the real cost. As usual the cost will be paid by our children and grandchildren.

    • Random50 says:

      Is it better to have each individual take their own personal transport many miles out to a distribution Center (store) and back to do the same thing than to have a single, admittedly more polluting, vehicle do the same thing to multiple customers in close proximity?

      Seems unlikely.

      Unless your stores/distribution centres are walking distance, the pollution is happening. America isn’t set up for walking. And even if it were, many Americans would still jump the car.

      • Biker says:

        A nice theory. Practice differs. All good if items are not returned in mass and the order generates one delivery, and customers select longer, more efficient delivery. Not next day!
        My last order was item for 48.99 and free delivery started at 50. I added a small granola bar to qualify.
        Then in 2 days my bar was delivered in a big box with lots of padding inside. Main item a week later. I was fuming 😤.

        • Random50 says:

          Returns are picked up by the delivery drivers. If it was less polluting to do the original delivery vs the individual driving out to the store, then that benefit is basically doubled when a return is involved.

          Next day isn’t vastly less efficient once you reach high enough volume. There’s a reason Amazon are now willing to offer it for free or nearly free. Heck, they now have the volume for efficient same day in busy markets!

          Probably more important to the argument is what is that consumer now doing? If they’re using the time freed up to go drive somewhere else instead a large portion of the time, then overall miles are up.

        • MM says:


          I think Biker is referring to the tendency of E-commerce to create more returns. Its a psychological thing: customers think that the internet is a black hole that magically creates and destroys products. They don’t consider all the waste that returned and unsellable products create.

          Its not so much E-commerce in general, but Amazom specifically, that has created wasteful customer shoppimg habits. There’s no such thing as ‘free’ returns; if you’re not paying for it, someone else is.

      • Biker says:

        But the biggest killer.
        People I know order like 10 items and expecting to keep at most one. To try them out.
        The sellers often send the returns to garbage since easier than reselling.

        • El Katz says:

          A portion of those returns are donated to charity. Another portion are sold through stores that specialize in selling returns. If you go to Goodwill (for example) you may find clothing for sale with price tags on them…. new, never worn. Those are donated by retail stores when the supply gets low enough that they can no longer advertise them and they fall out of season. When my daughter was in college, she used to find all kinds of designer bargains because she was a size 0.

          Another example, SmartWool will provide a prepaid envelope upon request with any order of new socks. The purpose of the envelope is for you to send your old worn out socks to a reprocessing center so the fibers can be reused. IIRC, those sock fibers are recycled wool/cotton and made into new products. It’s called “second cut”.

          The same thing you describe (buying 10 items to return 9) can occur at brick and mortar – especially with baby clothes. Amazon actually encourages that with their delayed billing during the “try before you buy” promos.

          I am not in love with Amazon, but it’s a heck of a time saver and, with $4-5 a gallon fuel, a money saver if you have to go on an Easter egg hunt to find a specific product that you can get delivered to your door with the click of a touch pad.

      • Paul S says:

        Exactly. I live 75 km from the nearest town. All Amazon products and most other ecommerce sellers use Canada Post to deliver to remote areas in Canada. The rural mail lady, whose name is Adele, drives her route everyday as a contractor. Her service is superb, and for my older neighbours she brings the deliveries to their home and often carries them up the stairs for them. Mine? just goes into the lock box at the corner. So, for everything bought online it saves me driving and frustration. It saves me lots of money. Most of the packaging can be recycled.

        The point being, Adele would be driving by anyway. Now, her SUV is always full.

        However, we buy all food on a bi-weekly ‘town run’, grow much of our own vegetables, catch our own fish etc. There is no such thing as fresh fish bought from a market. It has been caught somewhere, iced, and transported, then held for market.

        As for clothing and shoes, when you find what works for you then wait for the markdowns and buy extras. God, it would be worth extra to avoid clothing store sales staff following you around.

  19. shopping guy says:

    I went to Walmart for the first time around 2015. It was begrudgingly. In the last 4-5 years I’ve been there even more. Since Nov. of 2023 I started shopping online and picking up. WOW, love that. I rarely walk into that big box behemoth, not that it’s bad. They have lots of self check out that work great. Aldi and Walmart get my grocery shopping.

    When I needed an electronic thing a few months back from Best Buy, I bought it online and picked up.

    When I bought my car 6 years ago almost, I bought it online from Carvana and it’s the longest I’ve had a vehicle. They really made the process easy and no hassle with any of those sleazy wheeler-dealers. I hope all of those go out of business and for some that’s the way it’s looking with all their ridiculous over priced truck things.

    If I go to a drive thru restaurant (McDs, Taco John, Wendys) I always order on the app. Get points and deals.

  20. SoCalBeachDude says:

    DM: The claws are out! Entire contents of shuttered Red Lobster restaurants sell for $5k – as DUMPSTER DIVERS help themselves to unsold items

    Winning Red Lobster auction winners got a U-Haul truck full of the contents of the shuttered restaurant – all for under $5,000.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Did you look at the junk that is in an old Red Lobster restaurant? Maybe they can sell the steel and aluminum from the kitchen equipment and the wood and plastic from the furniture to a recycler? Steel and aluminum have value and get recycled. Furniture-type wood may have some value too.

      • SoCalBeachDude says:

        Yep, they weren’t remodeled for more than a decade on most all store and Darden sold them off in 2014.

  21. Imposter says:

    I recall a comment you had some time back. Generally it was that Walmart’s same store analysis had found that its grocery business was OK but general merchandise not so much.

    I know I shop for groceries to be sure I get what I want, its fresh, and not damaged.

    Similarly, home maintenance and project materials I need when I need them…such as on a weekend when I can do the work. So Home Depot is where I shop for those types of things.

    But, like the Walmart findings, I too shop for other hard goods on line much more than ever before. More selection and price comparisons are the drivers for me, but ONLY if I can wait on the delivery.

    Just some random thoughts.

    • Freewary says:

      “I know I shop for groceries to be sure I get what I want, its fresh, and not damaged.”

      I tried ordering food from Walmart, they just chucked the cans into a big box all were dented badly. Not doing that again.

  22. Freewary says:

    I have basically given up on shopping on Amazon because I kept getting fake crap, or vendors misrepresenting their product.

    Ebay has been overrun with lying sellers who say the product is in your metro area but ship it from their warehouse in California. Plus ebay restarted aggressive deletion of negative feedback so you basically can’t tell if the seller is honest and trustworthy.

    When I saw Walmart started doing e-commerce I was hoping they would vet their vendors. NOPE! The amazon vendors simply made accounts on Walmart to do the same scams there. Where can I find an e-commerce general retailer that blocks scammy vendors?

    • El Katz says:

      You can usually tell if a product is fake…. if the price is too good to be true, it probably is a fake. However, if that’s the case, you just toss it in a package and drop it off at the UPS store and you get your money back and free return shipping. Try that with Fleabay.

      I’ve bought from Home Dumpo online. Usually for irrigation stuff as they have odd parts (like drip irrigation valve filters that no one has). Free shipping on a $6 order…. Bought some fancy brand clothes online… returned one item. It went into a black hole. Haven’t received the refund as yet, and wouldn’t be surprised if I never saw one.

      E-commerce is hit and miss. At least with Amazon (which isn’t always the cheapest), I can get my money back hassle free.

      • MussSyke says:

        Having to walk all that counterfeit stuff to the UPS store to send back to Amazon is super annoying. And it can set a whole project back days if it was something you needed. I hate Amazon when I get a fake…especially when it is a safety product like an electrical breaker – someone should go to jail for that

    • SoCalBeachDude says:

      Amazon is by far the largest and best online marketplace for new goods with through product descriptions, reviews, ratings, et al, and excellent for groceries with Amazon Prime.

    • MM says:

      “lying sellers who say the product is in your metro area but ship it from their warehouse in California”

      If its getting shipped, why does it matter where it comes from?

      • Freewary says:

        because shipping something I want from DFW to DFW should take about a day, and shipping it from some other place takes longer.

        Also I just generally hate dealing with liars. If they lie about the product location, what else are they lying about?

  23. Micheal Engel says:

    1) AMZN thrives bc US Post Office subsidized them, especially Prime on Sun.
    2) WMT thrives bc of their brick and mortar. I buy most of my food stuff from WMT. I like to touch it. Their variety is good enough for me. They don’t mix old rotting food stuff with new stuff. What isn’t available there on the shelves is available online. Online offers better deals than the stores. Free delivery for orders over $35. They use the old Deming “Toyota System” with blinking lights to call for help.
    3) WMT modernization started decades ago when they could identify winners and losers and new trends.
    4) Ivanka online boosted sales from working mums.
    WMT beat AMZN and Dollar General. WMT has coffee shops and restaurants.
    5) [1W] AMZN barely made a new all time high, but didn’t close above 2021 high.

  24. Swamp Creature says:

    Shopping for groceries has become a nightmare around here. Even the same store chain has supply chain issues and carries different items. Quality control is lacking. The only way to get good quality, heathy food for a reasonable price is to allow more time for shopping and look for sale items when there are some. I generally go with a list of the 15 manditory items and keep going until all the items are purchased. We have a deal here called Sushi Wednesdays, where you can load up on fresh in-store made california rolls, veg, crab rolls for half price.

    • HotTub says:

      Forget Walmart for food; shop at ALDI if there’s one near you.

      • SoCalBeachDude says:

        Aldi has very limited items and has never been a full supermarket with a wide choice of brands. They’re nice for a few things but certainly not for everything in groceries.

      • Freewary says:

        ALDI is amazing as long as you are OK with early death

  25. HR01 says:

    WMT results looked uninspiring. Revenues not much more than in-line with inflation rate. Negative free cash flow.

    Being the biggest grocery store all well and good but it’s still a business with razor thin margins.

    Reaction looks overdone.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      1. Revenues from food and ecommerce (+22%) were impressive. Revenues from the rest of the aisles at its brick-and-mortar stores were crappy. RTGDFA.

      2. “Revenues not much more than in-line with inflation rate.”

      LOL. You still don’t get it? Walmart sells GOODS — not services such as rents, auto insurance, and cancer treatments. It sells food, clothes, gasoline, and durable goods. So you have to compare it to those inflation rates, not to the inflation rates of rents and cancer treatments.

      Did you see what inflation is in the goods that Walmart sells? Walmart talked big about the “rollbacks” of grocery prices. Despite the price declines, revenues increased by 6% due to food and ecommerce (+22%).

      For more on inflation in goods, go there:

      Durable goods inflation is the green line. That’s part of what Walmart sells. For more on goods inflation read the CPI article:

  26. Micheal Engel says:

    The food CPI Y/Y is rising a little in the US and in Europe.
    Last Apr the food CPI in France was 16%. In the US the food CPI index rose from 320 to 328 in two and a half years.
    WMT entry level is $14/h. In CA : $20. Retail real wages are rising fast. Energy is rising. Interest rates are up, but food in a low slog up.
    The food CPI is more accurate than the fake Rent CPI. Can it deflate : yes, along with layoffs and stores closing !
    Can the Rent CPI deflate : yes !

  27. Micheal Engel says:

    WMT cut food prices – better stuff and variety than Aldi and most
    supermarkets – for volume.
    WMT department store offers opto service, hair saloon, banking & insurance services, restaurants, gardening and an auto care ctr : batteries, tires, blades…The rest of the durable goods have low turnover. Some are memo goods.

    • SoCalBeachDude says:

      Walmart is also limited in what they offer and certainly doesn’t compete as a supermarket against Vons/Pavillions here in Southern California on either price and especially quality at all.

  28. San Francisco Native So says:

    San Francisco property does not have a Walmart.

    my father worked for Sunset Scavengers, now called Recology for about 50 years. he knew all of the happening in the Bayshore district up to the borderline of Brisbane.

    Many years ago Walmart wanted to build off Bay Avenue down by the former Schlage Lock factory. They wanted to build a supercenter off the main street with one winding Road to their store. They wanted to do this to deter Theft. The rationale was that perspective shoplifters could be stopped at the gate before getting onto Bayshore Boulevard.

    Even 30 years ago San Francisco was vehemently against a Walmart store. Many people fought against them. Walmart wanted to do things their way, which is only right.

    Personally, I welcome the competition. After so many years of fighting the city, Walmart finally gave up. It’s a sad story and reflective of the politics in San Francisco. we will gladly give up a fat tax base in favor of some ideology.

    Getting a Lowe’s store on Bayshore Boulevard on the property of the former Goodman Lumber was a Battle Royale. Originally, Home Depot wanted to lease the land and build a flagship store. It would’ve had tool rentals, as well as the largest nursery in their chain. Their plans, two stories of space with a parking lot across the street and a tunnel under the alley to access the store. All of their plans, no matter how they configured them got the kibosh. so Lowe’s decided to lease the land and build the smallest store in their chain. Those plans were approved and they moved forward.

    Any other city would have welcomed all of the newly created jobs, the convenience, and the large base. But not San Francisco, oh no, that would be outside of reasonable thinking.

    Except for the backstory of the never built, I am just rambling with some little known history.

    Don’t get me wrong, I was born in San Francisco, and still live in San Francisco and I truly love San Francisco. But the way we do things leaves a lot to be desired, and a really bad taste in my mouth.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Thanks for the history. Thank God there’s no Walmart in SF. Keeping Walmart out was one of the best decisions SF made. Walmart has been a small-business killer like no other. Much worse than the internet. They’re hideous stores. Eyesores with huge parking lots. In a densely populated city on a small plot of land (7×7 miles), surrounded by water on three sides, it’s far better to build housing and cafes, bars, and restaurants, and have a life than have this hideous monstrosity with its low-paid labor occupy so much space.

      There are Walmarts in the East Bay and in Silicon Valley. There is a lot more space there. People can drive to those Walmarts, it doesn’t have to be reachable on foot, by tram, or city bus.

      If you don’t like living in a city without Walmart, move to Tulsa, OK, highly recommended, my former hometown, about double the homicide rate of SF, they have several Walmarts there. People are free to live where they want, which is the good thing about this country.

      BTW, the landlord of Stonestown Galleria, the largest shopping center in SF, is redeveloping the huge site by putting 3,500 housing units on it, instead of parking lots, and creating a “main-street” type walkable shopping area. A big grocery store moved into the old Macy’s. And there is a multiplex that will stay, if people don’t stop going to movies altogether. The drawings look really good. That’s what needs to happen.

  29. San Francisco Native Son says:

    I’m sorry, Wolfe, I have some typos. When I went to correct it I must’ve hit the submit button by accident. When you notice my errors, could you please correct them thank you

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Nah, don’t worry about it. Everyone makes typos. We generally don’t allow the typo police into here.

      That said, it’s Wolf without e 🤣❤️

  30. Micheal Engel says:

    The malls destroyed small businesses. AMZN destroyed the malls.
    Googl ($2.2T) cuts ads profit from small businesses and muzzles them.
    Meta ($1.2T) and TikTok pit Gen Z against each other, make them mad,
    destroying our youth. China salivates bc we are so divided.
    Last week WMT ($520B) gap up on $161B vol/Qt. WMT warehouses have more value than Meta, Googl and TikTok with AI.

  31. SoCalBeachDude says:

    Walmart has always been a low-end store for low-end people.

  32. San Francisco Native Son says:

    Thank you for your gracious replies.

    The biggest opponent to the Home Depot project was none other than call Hardware because they were located on Mission Street near 30th St. and were afraid of being killed by such a large project. Since then, a conflagration happened, which took out about three parcels of land on Mission Street. One of them was the building which housed Cole hardware. Had that fire happened a decade before the opposition to the project might have been less.

    I have only been inside Walmart store several times. It’s kind of a cheapie feeling similar to the Woolworth stores that we had. Currently, target stores are allowed in several locations in San Francisco. I may be wrong, but when I walk into a target store I get a better feeling than when I walk into a Walmart store.

    so if we allow Target, why don’t we allow Walmart? I am not convinced that a Walmart would wipe out a lot of small business.

    Even though there is a Lowe’s store on Bayshore Boulevard I often patronize Bayshore supply, which is located right across the street. The same product from the two locations weighs twice as much at Bayshore supply then it does at Lowe’s. Why? Because the product sold at Bayshore supply is 100% brass while that sold it Lowe’s is mostly plastic. if you have time experiment out for yourself. All I’m trying to say is that people won’t necessarily shop at Walmart.

    Another example: Floorcraft, just recently closed was ecstatic when they built the Lowes of across the street. Why the owner told me that Floorcraft is a good store, not a great store. In his opinion, Lowes was the great store that attracted business to the neighborhood. When people shop for a high-quality item, they would see For themselves that Lowes did not carry it. But they would also see Floorcraft across the street and out of curiosity, they would go inside. They could see for themselves that Lowe’s carried LG. While carried Wolfe or Thermidor the drunken sailors with extra spending money or a higher credit limit would buy the product from Floorcraft. The owner was convinced that a flagship store would attract business not take it away.

    I can’t comment on who is correct but personally I think that Walmart would have attracted business. Look at IKEA stores in Emeryville and Palo Alto. Do they kill small business or do they bring people to the area?

    So all I know is that I’d like your website and the freedom of speech to be able to post opinions: whether they be right or wrong, intelligent, or stupid, funny, or sad, or just plain ridiculous.

    Thank you for allowing me this forum.

    BTW: I made you an offer last year to take you out to dinner. The offer still stands! we can go to any restaurant on Russian Hill or Noe Valley, or anywhere else in town of the Peninsula. Your choice.

  33. Micheal Engel says:

    WMT split 3:1 in Feb bc it’s not for the elite.

  34. Imposter says:

    Kroger grocery prices product shortages, and dwindling selection drove us to the local Walmart.

    Our neighbor poo poos Walmart and shops only at Kroger. They are also on a fixed, and tightening budget. The store switch count down begins…10,…9,…8,….. We’ll see. Guess it depends on the area, selection, and human nature.

    Just glad we still have choices.

Comments are closed.