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It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
Walmart Inc. is the world’s biggest retailer, with stores that are a beacon of low prices and a corporate culture that is famously penny-pinching. If anyone was to thrive in the current economic environment, it should have been the big-box retailer. And yet, on Monday it warned on profit for a second time in just over two months. That is an ominous sign for the whole consumer sector and the broader US economy.
Walmart isn’t losing customers. In fact, its low-price mantra is attracting them. The company said earlier this year that during periods of inflation all customers — low-, middle- and higher-income families — become more price-conscious. That is encouraging them to shop at Walmart. It now expects second-quarter US same-store sales, excluding fuel, to increase by about 6%, slightly ahead of its previous guidance of a 4%-5% expansion.
The trouble is, as…