Walmart is closing 269 stores worldwide, 154 of them in the U.S., the company announced Friday.  Included in the closures are 102 Walmart Express stores, a smaller-store format experiment that’s being discontinued, according to the announcement.  The chain is also closing 12 Supercenters, 23 Neighborhood Markets, seven stores in Puerto Rico, six discount centers, and four Sam’s Clubs.  Around 10,000 U.S. employees will be affected.  Shutdowns outside the U.S. will be concentrated in Brazil and other Latin American countries.  Walmart is also opening stores this year, including 60 Supercenters, 85-95 Neighborhood Markets, and seven to 10 Sam’s Clubs. 

Walmart’s announcement comes as sales estimates for the holiday season are released:  the National Retail Federation estimates that holiday sales were up 3%, after initially predicting a 3.7% increase.  Lower prices are impacting retail sales overall, and an unusually warm December depressed holiday sales below expected levels.  Deflation is being driven by lower commodity prices, particularly for energy, and online competition. 

Deflationary categories included toys, on which prices declined 5.2% in the 12 months through November, televisions (prices down 12%), computers (down 7%), and appliances (down 4.2%), according to MarketWatch.  And the brick and mortar share of retail sales continues to decline; for example, more consumers reported shopping online than shopped in stores on Thanksgiving weekend (see “More Shoppers Online than in Stores”).