Increasing comparable store sales in the US, improving international returns and reducing expenses are the key strategic objectives for retail giant Wal-Mart Stores, investors have been told.

Company president and CEO Mike Duke told the company’s annual investor meeting that the business was focused on near-term execution to build comp sales in Walmart US, amid an uncertain economy, fierce competition and the impending holiday season.

“When you go to our stores, you’re going to see fantastic new merchandise, aggressive investments in price through lots of rollbacks and better in-stock levels,” he said.

“We’re focusing on execution to deliver results.”

Duke argued that the company’s international division could improve “even in places where we’re already doing well”, revealing that it had recently assessed its portfolio and reviewed current operational strategy.

He also told investors that progress continued to be made towards his goal, stated at the same meeting two years ago, of reducing operating expenses as a percentage of sales by at least 100 basis points over a five-year period.

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“Even in a tough and unpredictable economy, there is strength in our businesses around the world,” said Duke.

“We’re making substantial progress in areas that are the foundation for long-term growth and shareholder returns.”

The world’s biggest retailer in August posted an underwhelming set of second quarter results, with US comparable store sales flat despite a slight overall profit increase.

The company downgraded its full-year sales and earnings forecasts, predicting net sales to rise 2-3% (versus its previous guidance of up 5-6%) and earnings per share of $5.10-5.30, down from $5.20-5.40 previously.

US sales rose 2.1% to $68.7bn, international revenues were up 2.9% to $32.96bn, and Sam’s Club sales increased 2.6% to $14.53bn, in the three months to 31 July.