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Retail Sales Up In Sept., 3rd Quarter

Both September and the third quarter were growth periods for consumer electronics and appliance sales, according to reporting retailers. Here's a rundown:

Circuit City said September sales at its consumer electronics/appliance retail stores rose 11% to $771.2 million, and comparable-store volume was up 6%.

"September's results were in line with our expectations and reflect an especially strong prior-year comparable-store sales increase of 11%," said chairman Richard Sharp. "We continued to see healthy sales growth across virtually all our major categories."

RadioShack retail sales were up 10% in September to $317.2 million, and comparable stores had a 9% sales growth, parent Tandy reported.

"Our comparable-store sales gain for the quarter was 12%, and the quarter ended with another strong month of sales at RadioShack," said chairman Len Roberts. "The communications and the audio/video categories experienced solid increases, while in September, our computer business was soft, reflecting an industrywide decrease in average selling price."

Tweeter Home Entertainment Group said its sales for the quarter to September 30 were a record $74.6 million, up 39.5% from last year. Full fiscal-1999 volume was up 22% to $283.3 million. Sales at comparable stores were up 5.2% for the quarter and 5% on the year.

As for the two chains Tweeter acquired this year, Houston-based Home Entertainment had a 21.7% increase in sales, while Dow Stereo/ Video of San Diego had a 17.9% decline.

President Jeffrey Stone said the Hi-Fi Buys chain of Atlanta, acquired last year, had a strong September but an essentially flat quarter. As for Dow, he said that chain "is performing to plan. We have abandoned entry-level products in this region, modified the merchandise mix to more closely match the core Tweeter model, and expect to drive comp sales down by 12% to 15% for the next nine months. This will be offset by improvements in both gross and operating margins for the chain, much as we have done at Hi-Fi Buys."

Tweeter CFO Joe McGuire said digital products drove the fourth quarter's business. Projection TV sales jumped 77%, he said, "and 37% of the category's sales are attributable to digital television. Product mix in the camcorder category was 83% digital for the quarter," and DVD sales dollars climbed 53%.

Sears said sales at its continuing domestic store operations rose 5.7% to $2.61 billion, with same-store volume up 4.1%. During the month "Sears appliance business continued its solid performance. Customers also responded well to our offerings in consumer electronics, including digital products and televisions," said chairman Arthur Martinez.

CompUSA said sales for the quarter to September 25 declined 2% to $1.36 billion, with the decline reflecting a planned cutback in unprofitable direct sales to business customers. Revenue at its 195 comparable retail stores was off a scant 0.3%.

Compared to last year, unit PC sales were up 39% at retail and down 16% from direct sales. Average PC pricing was down 18%. CEO James Halpin said the operating changes made during the quarter should enable the chain to show "the highest gross margin CompUSA has recorded in the last six quarters," and an improved earnings performance from the preceding quarter.