By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Full-line discount chains blamed bad weather and an early Easter for weak sales in April, although analysts fear the downturn could signal a pullback in consumer spending.
No. 1 retailer Wal-Mart said net sales at its flagship discount stores were essentially flat for the month, edging up 0.4 percent to $16.9 billion, while same-store sales fell 4.6 percent. Within CE, the company reported gains in flat-panel TVs, digital audio and notebook computers.
At Target, net sales fell 1.8 percent to $3.9 billion and same-store sales declined 6.1 percent last month amid fewer transactions, particularly during the first two weeks of April, CEO Bob Ulrich said. CE posted some of the chain's strongest comp sales, while entertainment category comps were among the weakest.
Among the warehouse clubs, channel leader Costco said net sales rose 12 percent last month to $4.9 billion while comps at U.S. stores rose 6 percent. The company reported particular strength in TVs and digital cameras.
Also reporting for the quarter Conn's net sales rose 5.6 percent to $181.4 million during its first fiscal quarter, ended April 30, aided by the addition of six new stores.
Conversely, same-store sales declined 0.3 percent for the three months due to tough comparisons to the year-ago period, when hurricane replacement sales sent comps soaring 16.1 percent.
"Our same-store sales are flat, as expected, compared to an unusually strong quarter last year," said chairman/CEO Thomas J. Frank, Sr. "We are on track and look forward to increased sales growth for the remainder of the year."
The regional brown- and white-goods chain said sales of CE increased 9.7 percent during the period on the strength of flat-panel TVs, and now represents 35.3 percent of sales. Majap revenue declined 6.4 percent amid the weak white-goods market and last year's strong replacement business, and now accounts for 34.6 percent of net sales. Track sales, which include portable electronics, computers, computer peripherals, and small appliances, fell 6.8 percent.
Conn's said it plans to open six to eight new stores this year, and will release its first-quarter earnings on May 31.
At Wal-Mart's Sam's Club division, net sales rose 4 percent to $3.3 billion and same-store sales grew 2.5 percent, partly on the strength of CE.
For the quarter, Sears Holdings reported single-digit declines in same-store sales for its Sears and Kmart chains during the first 12 weeks of its fiscal first quarter, which ends May 5.
At Sears, same-store sales slipped 2.4 percent during the period, largely due to a decline in its major appliance business. The company attributed the white goods slowdown to the weak U.S. housing market and increased competition.
For Kmart, comp-store sales declined 4.7 percent due to "lower transaction volumes across most businesses," the company reported.
The company reported its preliminary results in advance of today's annual shareholder meeting. It expects to report its full results on May 31.
Back to the monthly reports, No. 3 warehouse club BJ's said total April sales grew 1.9 percent to $618.5 million and comp sales increased 1.2 percent amid lighter traffic. The chain reported strength in TVs, but weakness in other electronics.
The National Retail Federation described CE and majap stores as one of the few bright spots last month, with sales rising 0.7 percent seasonally adjusted over March and 3.6 percent unadjusted over last year.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.