Comp-Store Sales Tepid For National Chains

By Alan Wolf On Dec 7 2009 - 8:00am

National discount chains reported tepid same-store sales in November despite strong demand for consumer electronics and the surge in Black Friday business.

Target said strength in CE and online purchases, plus brisk Black Friday sales, contributed to a 1.5 percent increase in total retail revenue last month, to $5.7 billion, although same-store sales slipped 1.5 percent.

“Sales were slightly below our expectations for November, as softer results in the first three weeks of the month were substantially offset by better-than-expected sales during our post-Thanksgiving two-day sale,” said Target chairman, president and CEO Gregg Steinhafel.

Business was stronger on Black Friday than Saturday, he said, with comp sales rising by the high single digits the day after Thanksgiving, compared with a combined mid-single-digit increase for both days. He added that inventories remain “well-controlled, giving us confidence in our ability to perform well during the holiday season in what continues to be a challenging economic environment.”

Among the wholesale clubs, Costco said net sales rose 9 percent to $6 billion, and same-store sales at U.S. stores were flat, excluding the positive impact of higher gasoline prices relative to last year.

Comp sales for Costco's combined CE and appliance business were up by the low- to mid-single digits despite continued price deflation, the company said. Specifically, TV unit volume rose more than 15 percent last month, but dollar volume trailed with a mid-single digit increase. Costco also reported positive comp sales for computers, audio and major appliances.

Traffic was up 3.5 percent year over year, and average transaction size rose 2.5 percent, including fuel sales.

At BJ's Wholesale Club, net sales rose 6.4 percent to $833.6 million, and same-store sales edged up 1 percent, with no impact from fuel sales. Computers were among departments with the strongest comps, while weaker categories included TVs and video games, BJ's said.

Traffic increased about 3 percent year over year, excluding fuel sales, while the average transaction amount decreased by about 3 percent.

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