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Discount Chains Post Strong July Sales

8/07/2008 11:02:00 AM Eastern

New York — Major discount chains posted strong sales gains during July.

Wal-Mart was one of several companies whose report included the first three days of August. The chain reported U.S. store sales at $18.7 billion, up 6.7 percent over last year’s July numbers. Without including fuel sales, comp-store sales in the United States were up 3 percent.

Among the categories that helped spur sales were flat-panel TVs, video games, game accessories, ready-to-assemble furniture and digital media, Wal-Mart said. While Wal-Mart U.S. president/CEO Eduardo Castro-Wright said the end of stimulus checks has produced “a pronounced paycheck cycle” of sales at the end of the month, “we also continue to see improvement in our customer traffic, relative to last year.”

At its Sam’s Club operation, sales were $7.87 billion, up 7.7 percent over last July. Without fuel sales, comp sales were up 3.5 percent during the month, lower than last July’s 5.1 percent increase. Doug McMillon, president/CEO of Sam’s Club, said that while general merchandise sales were softer than food, “members are responding to our focus on new items and new technology.”

Target reported July sales of $4.57 billion, up 4.7 percent, but comp-store sales were down 1.2 percent from last year.

Costco reported net sales of $5.70 billion for the month of July, the four weeks ending Aug. 3, an increase of 14 percent from $5.02 billion in the same four-week period last year. Comp sales were up 10 percent in the United States during the month compared with last year. 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 41 percent, as compared with the year-earlier July. Excluding gasoline price inflation, U.S. comparable sales would have been up 6 percent.

BJ’s Wholesale Club reported an 18.9 percent increase in sales, to $773.2 million, with comp-store sales in July up 16.7 percent, including a 9.7 percent comp-stores sales increase in the month due to higher gasoline prices. The strongest categories for BJ’s during July included major appliances, TV, video games and residential furniture, the warehouse club reported.