Earlier this week, data from the Commerce Department showed slowing retail sales growth in January. But on Friday, a report from Bloomberg revealed a potentially more troubling economic indicator: Fewer shoppers are coming to Walmart.
"Sales are a total disaster," Jerry Murray, a vice president at Walmart, wrote in a recent email obtained by Bloomberg. Murray wrote February was off to the slowest start he'd seen in seven years.
Walmart said in a statement: "As with any organization, we often see internal communications that are not entirely accurate, that lack the proper context and represent individual opinions."
The news is another worrying sign that the end of the payroll tax holiday on Jan. 1 has forced many Americans to cut back. The expiration of the tax cut raised taxes by about $1,000 on a worker making $50,000 per year, according to the Tax Policy Center. A recent report in the New York Times offered a look at the consequences of the tax increase, which hit Americans with the smallest paychecks hardest. Those Americans are indeed most apt to shop at Walmart.
The Bloomberg report sent Walmart's stock price tumbling around 2 p.m. on Friday. It was down 2.15 percent for the day with a share price of $69.30.