May 16 (Bloomberg) -- Televisions are flying off the virtual shelves at Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s Brazilian website as fans prepare to watch every match of the World Cup soccer championship that starts next month.
Sales of TVs at walmart.com.br have surged about 35 percent since May 7 when the Brazilian soccer team was named, said Fernando Madeira, Wal-Mart’s head of Latin America. April was a strong month, too, with TV sales up 20 percent to 25 percent, compared with a normal pace of 12 percent, Madeira said.
“As soon as they announced the team, it was immediate,” Madeira said in an interview at Bloomberg’s Sao Paulo headquarters on May 15. “The trading-in of TVs is hot right now.”
Online shopping is booming in Brazil as computers and mobile phones reach more households in a swelling middle class. Internet sales are growing at an annual clip of about 20 percent, while standard retail purchases dropped 1.1 percent in March from a year earlier, the biggest decline in a decade, according to the national statistics agency.
Wal-Mart’s Brazilian web operations are growing twice as fast as total e-commerce sales, Madeira said, and the company plans to increase sales fivefold by 2017.
Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, has some stiff competition. It’s up against retailers like Nova Pontocom, the Brazilian e-commerce operation controlled by Casino Guichard Perrachon SA, and B2W Cia Digital, the top online seller in Latin America’s largest economy.
Wal-Mart doesn’t disclose revenue from individual countries, though Madeira said a “good portion” of the $13 billion in global revenue for the company’s e-commerce business comes from Brazil. It’s in third place in terms of revenue behind B2W, which had sales of 6.1 billion reais ($2.75 billion) last year, and Nova Pontocom with 4.3 billion reais, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Wal-Mart’s Brazil online operation, which got its start five years ago, is open to making acquisitions to speed growth, Madeira said.
“We have our ears open but our mouths are closed,” he said. “If there’s an interesting opportunity, yes, without a doubt.”
The company will double the number of employees to about 2,000 by the end of the year, he said.
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