Shares of Wal-Mart (WMT  ) shares surged 9.6% Thursday after the retail giant posted first-quarter results well ahead of Wall Street's expectations, proving itself to be one of the few retail success stories in recent months. The earnings beat comes on the heels of a disastrous week for retail stocks. Almost every retail company that reported earnings missed, and missed big. From Target (TGT  ), to Nordstrom (JWN  ), and JC Penny's (JCP  ), all of these big named retail stocks seemed to be losing business to Amazon (NASADAQ: AMZN).

Well, Wal-Mart gets credited as the stock that stopped the retail slide this week. The company says their effort to provide shoppers with a better experience was a main factor in their high sales for the first quarter. Investors cheered the news sending Wal-Mart shares up $6.05 a share to close at $69.20.

Wal-Mart cited better pricing, selection and fully stocked shelves as helping to boost sales in grocery. Analysts have been focused on the grocery division of Wal-Mart as an area the company needs to improve. Analysts were also happy to hear that the company's smaller-format Neighborhood Market stores also brought in shoppers looking for fresh food or to fulfill pharmacy orders. Sales at Wal-Mart U.S. stores open at least a year increased 1%, the seventh consecutive quarter of growth for Wal-Mart's domestic business. Neighborhood Market same-store sales increased 7.1% in the quarter.

"Investment in wages, training and store improvements are beginning to pay off," said Wal-Mart U.S. CEO Greg Foran on a call with media, noting that customer service has gotten better and customers claim it's easier for them to find what they want.

Now, net earnings fell 7.8% to $3.1 billion from $3.3 billion in the same quarter last year, but this was primarily due to Wal-Mart's decision to pay higher wages. The company initiated the second phase of a plan that started last year to bring employees to a minimum of $10 an hour. Even with this new approach to higher earnings, the companies earnings per share came to 98 cents, beating analyst estimates for earnings per share of 88 cents.

Revenue increased 0.9% to $115.9 billion from $114.8 billion in the year-ago quarter. Analysts expected revenue of $112.7 billion, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. It wasn't all good news though as its international segment struggled. Sales were down 7.2%, impacted by fluctuating exchange rates. Some analysts have argued that if you back out currency volatility, international sales were up 4%.

Lastly, Wal-Mart has been spending more on technology, ramping up its efforts to go head-to-head with rival Amazon. It's been expanding its service that offers store pick up for online grocery orders, and announced earlier this month that its three-day shipping program in pilot testing would be pared down to a two-day shipping guarantee. That puts it more in line with Amazon's subscription Prime service.