Despite the weak economy, or more likely because of it, national discount chains reported solid sales in April, driven in part by strong CE demand.
Wal-Mart's net sales rose 6.5 percent last month to nearly $18 billion at its flagship discount stores while comp-store sales grew 2.6 percent. The world's largest retailer cited continued strength in flat-panel TV and additional strong performance in video game software and consoles.
Nevertheless, Wal-Mart Stores U.S. president Eduardo Castro-Wright noted that the weak economy has had a pronounced effect on the "paycheck cycle" for its customers. "As money gets tighter for them toward the end of the month, sales drop more than we have seen in the past," he said.
At Target, net sales rose 9 percent in April, to $4.3 billion, and comp-store sales grew 3.1 percent, reflecting increases in both the size and number of transactions, the company said.
Among the warehouse clubs, Costco said April's net sales rose 12 percent to $5.6 billion and comps increased 5 percent (excluding the effect of gasoline price inflation). Surprisingly, the company reported a decrease in its CE business, which it attributed to a decline in TV unit and dollar volume.
Wal-Mart's Sam's Club division reported a 10.4 percent gain in April net sales, to $3.6 billion, and a 6.6 percent rise in comp sales (excluding gasoline), citing strength in video games, among other general merchandise categories.
BJ's Wholesale Club reported a 20.4 percent increase in April net sales, to $744.5 million, and a 12.3 percent spike in comp sales (excluding gasoline). The company attributed the gains to weak year-ago results and the timing of the Easter holiday, which added one day to the reporting period. It also cited pre-recorded video as one its weakest performers last month.
Separately, Conn's, the multiregional brown- and white-goods chain, reported a 7.5 percent increase in first-quarter sales to $195.1 million and a 1 percent comp-sales gain.