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Walmart saw more back-to-school shoppers in stores. Will this change amid rise in COVID-19 cases?
Delta variant: Why the respiratory illness is so easily transmissibleThe delta variant is one of the most contagious respiratory illnesses. Find out why it’s easily transmissible.Just the FAQs, USA TODAYWalmart officials said Tuesday they are monitoring changes across the country related to the pandemic and the highly transmissible COVID-19 delta variant.During the retail giant’s quarterly earnings, the company said more shoppers returned to Walmart for back-to-school shopping and fewer shopped online during the fiscal quarter that ended July 30 as the COVID-19 variant was starting to intensify.The three-month quarter ended the same day Walmart and Sam’s Club updated their mask policies to require employees wear masks regardless of vaccination status in COVID-19 hot spots. Customers are strongly encouraged to wear masks but not required, except in areas that have local or state mask mandates.►Mask shortage 2021?: Masks are selling out in some COVID hot spots with the delta variant surging and new mask mandates►Shrimp recall: Frozen shrimp sold at Whole Foods, Meijer, more stores recalled for possible salmonellaThe world’s largest retailer reported that sales at stores opened at least a year rose 5.2%, a bit of a slowdown from the 6% increase in the first quarter. The earnings of $4.27 billion, or $1.52 per share, were a nickel better per share than Wall Street had expected, according to a survey by FactSet.Sales in the most recent quarter rose 2.2% to $139.87 billion, also better than the $137.02 billion industry analysts expected.Doug McMillon, Walmart president and CEO, said the company gained more market share in grocery and added thousands of online sellers to its third-party marketplace.Like other retailers, Walmart is facing rising costs for everything from labor to shipping as supply chain backups hit companies worldwide.”We’re continuing to see a bit more cost inflation than normal, but our merchants are working with suppliers and monitoring price gaps to keep prices low while managing margins,” Walmart Chief Financial Officer Brett Biggs said during Tuesday’s call with analysts.Retail sales fell in July, Home Depot sees fewer in-store shoppersThe U.S. Commerce Department said Tuesday that retail sales fell a seasonal adjusted 1.1% in July from the month before, which was a larger drop than the 0.3% decline Wall Street analysts had expected.According to Tuesday’s report, spending fell at stores that sell clothing, furniture and sporting goods.Concerns are mounting over how shoppers will behave in the months ahead as the delta variant surges across the U.S., mask mandates are reinstated and prices increase on everything from food to cars.“There is now a very clear sign that the momentum, which has propelled the sector over the few months or so, is slowing and that growth rates are moderating as a result,” said Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail. “To be clear, this is not catastrophic and it in no way signals anything near a contraction for retail.”Home Depot, which also announced its quarterly earnings Tuesday, saw a decline in shoppers in-store.The home improvement store chain’s sales continue to surge, though same-store sales appeared to come back to earth after a year in which the company repeatedly outperformed expectations.For the three months ending Aug. 1, sales climbed to $41.12 billion from $38.05 billion. Chairman and CEO Craig Menear said in a statement Tuesday that this was the first time the chain surpassed quarterly sales of more than $40 billion.►Save better, spend better: Money tips and advice delivered right to your inbox. Sign up here►Curbside pickup: Grocery shopping online again as COVID cases rise? Here’s how to save with Walmart, Target, Instacart ordersContributing: Associated PressFollow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko. For shopping news, tips and deals, join us on our Shopping Ninjas Facebook group.