Jim Cramer watched as Wal-Mart's stock was taken to the woodshed on Wednesday, following one of the most depressing analyst meetings that he has seen.
The world's largest retailer slashed its long-term forecasts, guiding for flat revenue next year and noting that earnings will likely take a 6 to 12 percent hit next fiscal year, largely because of higher labor costs. This accounts for a $1.5 billion investment in wages and training and includes a $10 an hour minimum store wage increase next year from its $9 this year.
"The forecast was so negative that even the announcement of a humongous $20 billion buyback couldn't give the stock any traction," the "Mad Money" host said.
To get the full story, Cramer spoke with Wal-Mart President and CEO Doug McMillon.
"People have known that $10 was coming for a while. This news today was just we quantified it for everybody. But the real issue is, are we doing the right things to position Wal-Mart for the future? Are we investing in the business to strengthen it?" McMillon said. (Tweet this)
The CEO shared that the company has seen progress in areas such as customer service. It has taken its clean, fast and friendly score from 17 percent at the beginning of the year to being 67 percent favorable with customers. He attributed that to associates doing a better job of running stores and supporting customers.
However, McMillon believes that building the retailer's e-commerce business and investing in its store experience has put pressure on short-term earnings. He said that the retailer's first priority is growth and winning over its customers.
"It's interesting that we are being criticized for doing the first thing first and the second thing second," McMillon added. (Tweet this)
The first thing on his agenda is the investment in wages, and next year an investment in ecommerce. After that, McMillon aims to have Wal-Mart generate $80 billion in cash over a three-year period. Of that $80 billion, the company will continue to support a dividend and set aside $20 billion for the share repurchase program to help shareholders get a return during that period of time.
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Cramer tried to gain clarity, stating, "We live by the score. You're a numbers guy as well as a merchant. The score is that you're losing or that you lost. Why should the score be changed?"
"It depends on your time horizon. If you look at our $2.7 billion investment in wages over two years, and you disagree with that, then maybe you react with the share price the way you are. But maybe I have a messaging problem, or maybe I'm not telling the story as well as I need to," McMillon responded.
Ultimately, Cramer thinks investors were absolutely shocked with Wal-Mart's news on Wednesday. The CEO said that while the company has known for a long time that it was moving toward the $10-an-hour wage increase, if he had to do it all over again then he would have explained how the company was going to quantify that earlier on.
"But it is what it is, and the news was going to be new at some point," McMillon said. (Tweet this)