Wal-Mart CEO excited about holidays

Lee Scott to analysts: 'In the U.S., I feel we are properly positioned for Christmas.'

By Parija B. Kavilanz, CNNMoney.com senior writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott told analysts Wednesday that he feels "good," "excited," and "optimistic" about the upcoming holiday season.

"I saw great merchandise and our customers are going to love our prices," Scott said during the conclusion of Wal-Mart's two-day annual analyst and investor meeting in Rogers, ARK.

Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott

This year, Wal-Mart is also creating "Christmas shops" inside its stores to showcase holiday products.

"These shops are going to be terrific and our customers are going to love it," Scott said. "In the U.S., I feel we are properly positioned for Christmas."

Wal-Mart and other retailers are nervous that the housing downturn and a tighter credit market means consumers will spend more cautiously on gifts this year.

Indeed, the National Retail Federation, the industry's largest trade group, estimates that holiday sales will grow 4 percent this year, softer than last year's 4.6 percent growth.

The fourth-quarter holiday season is critical for the retail industry since the period typically accounts for 50 percent, or more, of merchants' annual profits and sales.

To that end, Wal-Mart (Charts, Fortune 500) has already chopped holiday prices twice this month on its holiday inventory and promised to offer its shoppers additional discounts leading up to Christmas.

Scott said Wal-Mart's U.S. business, which continues to struggle with sagging sales, is still "healthy."

"I feel we are well positioned for an economic downturn," Scott said. "Our low prices and low-cost business model should give us an advantage over other retailers if things get more difficult for consumers."

In response to an analyst's question about whether the worst was behind Wal-Mart in terms of its sales performance this year, Scott said he felt it was.

'Of all the things that I have been worried about, the first-half of this year was the most significant concern as CEO," he said.

But earlier this month, Wal-Mart raised its third-quarter earnings forecast to between 66 and 69 cents a share from its earlier guidance of 62 to 65 cents a share, citing improved margins and cost reductions.

"I believe the second quarter was the low-point for us. We lived through that. We managed through it and we got our inventories in line," Scott said. Top of page