Wal-Mart Stores, the world's number one retailer, has reported a 3.3 per cent increase in September same-store sales and says it is sticking with its earnings guidance of 40 to 41 cents for the(third quarter, and $1.76 to $1.78 for the year. Net sales at all outlets grew 10.4 per cent year-on-year to $21.9 billion.

However, the company said: "Sales for both the Wal-Mart division and Sam's Club were below plan for the month."

The retailer set a modest target for October. Wal-Mart forecast October same-store sales growth of 2-4 per cent and said it was disappointed with Halloween sales so far.

In an attempt to trim costs, Wal-Mart has inked a deal with IBM to help build a standardised Internet-based system to help suppliers exchange purchase orders, invoices and shipping notices with the retail giant.

Until now the retailer has required that its larger suppliers have in-house staff dedicated to analysing information from Wal-Mart's sales-tracking system, which uses telephone networks and "value-added" networks.