Wal-Mart Shows Worst Monthly Sales Since 1979

As Wal-Mart goes, so goes the nation.

And if the world's largest retailer truly is an economic indicator, Americans may be in for a bumpy ride.

The company reported a 3.5 percent drop in sales for the month of April. That's the largest decline since 1979, when Wal-Mart began reporting results.

"Wal-Mart had its worst sales in 28 years," said Alan Murray, assistant managing editor of The Wall Street Journal. "There are a number of things going on, part of it is early Easter. So some of those sales got moved into March. Part of it is bad weather."

But it's not just Wal-Mart feeling the heat. Across the board, retailers from Target to JC Penny to the Gap reported weaker April sales.

"Wal-Mart is not doing what it used to do very well," Murray said, noting its attempt last year to sell higher-end clothing. "That didn't work. It had to back off. It's remodeling its stores. That's not working very well."

"The whole retail industry had disappointing sales," said Dana Telsey, CEO of Telsey Advisory Group.Overall. "This month of April was the worst month of retail sales in about seven years."

The decline could be a clue that high gas prices and a slowing housing market may have finally caught up with shoppers. Still, those aren't the only problems plaguing Wal-Mart.

But Wal-Mart is hoping a renewed focus on the 3 P's of marketing -- product, pricing and placement -- will bring back those customers always looking for low prices.

"I think Wal-Mart is working to enhance its image," Telsey said. "It could always be better. Going back to its roots is a way that hopefully customers will become familiar with it again."