Feds: Good March For CE, Majaps

By Alan Wolf On Apr 19 2010 - 4:01am

WASHINGTON — Retail sales of consumer electronics and major appliances in March rose 3.5 percent year over year to $8.8 billion, the U.S. Commerce Department reported.

The figures, which were adjusted for calendar shifts and are weighted toward Best Buy’s results, also showed a 1.3 percent decline from February.

Total retail industry sales (excluding car dealerships, gas stations and restaurants) increased 0.9 percent seasonally adjusted over February and 5.7 percent unadjusted year over year.

However discount chains reported weak CE sales, but an early Easter and warm weather helped offset that weakness to deliver strong March sales to discount chains.

Among those reporting results, Target said net retail sales for the five weeks, ended April 3, increased 12.5 percent to $6.2 million and same-store sales rose 10.3 percent, compared with a 6.3 percent decline last year.

“March comparable-store sales exceeded our expectations,” said Target chairman, president and CEO Gregg Steinhafel, although CE had the weakest comps in hardlines due to brisk sales of DTV converter boxes in 2009.

Among the warehouse clubs, Costco said net sales rose 12 percent last month to $7.1 billion while U.S. comp sales increased 2 percent, excluding the positive impact of gasoline sales.

Like Target, CE and majaps were Costco’s weakest-performing hardlines category, posting low single-digit declines. The chain attributed the downturn to weakness in TV, where both unit and dollar volume fell 20 percent last month.

At BJ’s Wholesale Club, net sales soared 15.7 percent to $1 billion and comps climbed 7.3 percent, excluding the positive impact of fuel sales. The company included TV and video games among its monthly laggards, but said overall traffic was up 7 percent excluding gas.

Looking at the broader picture, the nation’s chain stores together posted “a healthy, albeit inflated, increase” of 9 percent last month, noted Michael Niemira, chief economist and research director for the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC).

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