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CE Helped Feb. Retail Sales

3/06/2008 09:21:00 AM Eastern

New York — Retail sales rose for public-traded retail chains with help from electronic products like HDTV and video games.

Wal-Mart reported sales were $18.5 billion for the month, up 5.6 percent compared with a year ago and comp-store sales (excluding fuel sales) were up 2.5 percent vs. an advance of 0.4 percent a year ago. Comp-store sales were strongest in the Central and Northeast regions, with the Southeast and Midwest softer.

The chain said sales of flat-panel TVs were extremely strong, as were TV stands in furniture. Laptop computers experienced strong gains in February despite strong comparisons to last year’s launch of Microsoft Vista.

At Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club February sales were $3.3 billion, up 6.5 percent compared with last February, with comp-store sales (without fuel sales) up 2.8 percent, lower than the previous year’s 3.9 percent gain. Video games were about the top categories for Sam’s Club during the month.

Target reported net retail sales of $4.37 billion, up 5.9 percent from the previous year’s $4.13 billion, with comp-store sales up 0.5 percent vs. last year’s 5.7 percent gain. “Our comparable store sales performance in February was in line with our planned range,” said Bob Ulrich, chairman/CEO.

Costco reported net sales for the month of $5.11 billion, an increase of 11 percent from the $4.59 billion for the same time last year. Comp sales for the month were up 5 percent in the United States.

The U.S. comp-sales figure includes, among other things, the effect of gasoline price inflation, with the average sales price per gallon of gasoline up 25 percent for the four-week month of February, as compared to the year-earlier February. Excluding gasoline price inflation, U.S. comparable sales would have been up 3 percent, the chain said.

At BJ’s Wholesale Club, February sales were up 9 percent over last year to $655.7 million from $601.8 million. On a comp store basis sales were up by 5.9 percent for the month, including 2.7 percent from gasoline sales. In February 2007 BJ’s reported a comp-store sales increase of 3.0 percent, including a 0.9 percent gain from gasoline sales. The chain cited television sales among those categories driving its volume last month.

And Sharper Image, which filed for Chapter 11 protection last month, did not report its monthly sales but is reportedly seeking approval to hire a liquidator to conduct store-closing sales at half its locations.

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