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Retailers Post Strong May CE Sales

Electronic products were strong sellers in May for both specialty and general merchandise retailers, according to reports issued last week. Here's a rundown:

Best Buy, which posts sales results only on a quarterly basis, said its volume for its first fiscal quarter ended May 29 jumped 23% to $2.39 billion. Comparable stores had a strong 13.3% jump, giving Best Buy its sixth straight quarter of double-digit same-store sales growth.

CFO Allen Lenzmeier said sales gains were made in all major product categories, and those of "digital technology products, personal computers, major appliances and TVs greatly exceeded our expectations."

On the strength of the solid sales performance, Lenzmeier said, Best Buy expects to show earnings for the quarter at an indicated $42.4 million. That's more than double last year's $15.7 million net and far exceeds the $25 million consensus earnings estimate of stock analysts.

RadioShack had a 19% May sales increase to $294.2 million and a 17% jump at comparable stores, parent Tandy reported. CEO Len Roberts said "sales continue to be strong in key categories such as communications, direct-to-home satellite systems, prepaid wireless airtime and computers." During the month RCA DVD players were shipped to stores, "and we anticipate sales of this product to grow during the summer," Roberts stated.

Among mass merchants and discounters:

Ames Department Stores said that aided by liquidation sales at those Hills Stores locations being closed, its total May revenue jumped 65.9% to $284.9 million. Same-store volume was up 6.4%. President Joseph Ettore said, "Sales were vigorous across the board, but really stood out in" home entertainment and other home products.

Bradlees credited "particularly strong sales" of electronics in helping it achieve an 11.7% rise in total May sales to $117.7 million and a 12.6% increase at comparable stores.

Fred's, the operator of 320 discount outlets in the Southeast, said sales for the month of $49.5 million were up 10.4% and same-store volume rose 2.5%. CEO Michael Hayes cited electronics as being among the product sectors showing strong sales.

Sears said May sales at ongoing domestic stores rose 3.3% to $2.26 billion, and same-store volume was up 1.9%. Chairman Arthur Martinez said gains in hardlines reflected "solid sales of washers, dryers and refrigerators, and double-digit increases in home office equipment. These results were partially offset, however, by lower air conditioner sales due to cooler weather."

On the software front, Musicland said "strong sales of CDs, DVD, books, video games and a variety of trend lines all offset a weakness in video titles," giving the chain a 2% May sales rise to $111.7 million, and a 2.5% increase in same-store volume.