Business Briefs — Walmart warns of challenges, reduces forecast despite profit boost


Sales grew and so did profits, but Bentonville-based Walmart had a rocky quarter as same-store sales struggled and the retail giant warned of a challenging environment for consumer spending.

The company posted total quarterly revenues of $116.95 billion compared to $114.28 billion a year ago. Net income rose to $4.07 billion, or $1.24 per diluted share, versus $4.02 billion, or $1.18 per diluted share, in last year’s comparable period.

Same-store sales at its U.S. outlets actually were down 0.3 percent for the quarter, although its smaller Sam’s Club division same-store sales rose 1.7 percent. Wal-Mart said modest inflation and an increase in payroll taxes in the U.S. contributed to the struggling numbers. The retailer halved its forecast for expected sales growth for the remainder of the year.

Dillard’s sees profits rise despite sales slip

Lower revenue didn’t impair Dillard’s bottom line as the Little Rock-based retailer reported second quarter net income of $36.5 million, up from $31 million one year ago.

Sales slipped from $1.488 billion in 2012’s second quarter to $1.480 billion in 2013’s comparable period. Overall quarterly income stood at $1.517 billion, down from last year’s $1.525 billion.

Dillard’s said that sales trends were “notably strong” in ladies’ accessories and lingerie followed by juniors’ and children’s apparel. Sales were weakest in the home and furniture category followed by ladies’ apparel, the company said.

Acxiom lays off 20 in its u.s. marketing division

Little Rock-based Acxiom Corp. says it has laid off 20 people working in the database giant’s U.S. marketing department. The layoffs occurred on Wednesday, with most of them occurring at the company’s Little Rock headquarters. The company employs about 5,200 people worldwide, with more than 2,000 of those working in Arkansas.

$250 Million ammonia plant coming to El Dorado

Oklahoma City-based LSB Industries Inc. announced that its chemical business subsidiary has entered into an agreement to build a $250-$300 million ammonia plant in El Dorado, Ark. LSB will contract with SAIC Constructors LLC to construct the 375,000-ton-per-year ammonia plant, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2015. LSB will fund the construction of the ammonia plant from the net proceeds of a recently enacted $425 million senior credit facility.

Arkadelphia lands $5.4 million poultry plant, 172 jobs

Vikon Farms, a poultry processing company, will locate a new processing facility in Arkadelphia, which will employ more than 172 people within four years, the company said. Vikon will invest $5.4 million in the facility, formerly home to Petit Jean Poultry. In addition to the jobs created directly by the new processing facility, Vikon also will contract with a significant number of growers from El Dorado and Union County along with a Vikon-supported hatchery in Prescott.

Manufacturing hourly wages rising, but hours falling off

Statistics released by the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services show that, while hourly manufacturing wages are rising, the number of hours worked is on the decline. As a result, average weekly earnings in Arkansas are down 2.5 percent. In June 2012 weekly earnings in the manufacturing sector stood at $650.87, but one year later that number slipped to $634.44. Hourly wages are rising, however, as overall manufacturing pay stood at $15.55 per hour in June 2013. One year ago, hourly wages were $15.46 for manufacturing workers. Business leaders say productivity gains are leading to smaller work forces in the sector, which accounts for some of the hourly wage increases, but lower overall earnings.

Sabin leaving Oxford American post to head Argenta innovation center

State Rep. Warwick Sabin, D-Little Rock, will leave his post as publisher of the Oxford American magazine and take the helm of the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub, an entrepreneurship nonprofit launching in downtown North Little Rock’s Argenta district. The innovation center was announced last month and will promote entrepreneurship through business incubation, academic research, technical and manufacturing assistance, and job training. Sabin will assume his responsibilities on Sept. 1.

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Roby Brock, a freelance journalist based in Little Rock, writes weekly for the Arkansas News Bureau. His weekly television program airs at 10 p.m. Sundays in Central and Northwest Arkansas. His email address is roby@talkbusiness.net; his website address is www.talkbusiness.net