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Sales of Halloween products, with an assist from consumer electronics, helped national discount chains post solid revenue gains in October.
Wal-Mart reported a 5 percent increase in net sales at its namesake discount stores to $17.4 billion for the four weeks, ended Nov. 2, although same-store sales were flat. The company said it is heading into the holiday season with a "healthy" inventory position, and markdowns as a percentage of sales were below plan for the third quarter. (See quarterly financial report on p. 97.)
Net sales at Wal-Mart's Sam's Club unit increased 5.3 percent to $3.3 billion for the four weeks, ended Nov. 2, on strength in video games and office supplies. Same-store sales rose 2.7 percent thanks to a higher average ticket and greater traffic from small businesses, the company said.
Conn's, the Texas-based CE and majaps chain, said net sales rose 11.6 percent to $17.6 million and comps increased 6.8 percent during its fiscal third quarter, ended Oct. 31.Same-store sales rose a healthy 6.8 percent for the period.
"Consumer electronics continued to be a big driver of our sales this quarter," said chairman/CEO Thomas J. Frank, Sr. "As expected, the competitive environment has been very challenging and the margin pressures have continued."
CE sales rose 18.5 percent, representing 35.6 percent of the sales mix, on strength in LCD TVs, the company said. Track sales, which include PCs, peripherals, video gaming, portable CE and small appliances, rose 21.4 percent on strength in laptops and gaming consoles.
Conversely, major appliance sales slipped 1.6 percent on weakness in laundry and refrigeration, reducing majaps to 35 percent of the sales mix from nearly 40 percent last year.
During the three months, Conn's opened a new store in Brownsville, Texas, and a clearance center in San Antonio, bringing the store count to 64 throughout Texas and Louisiana.
The chain, a member of the NATM Buying Corp., will post its earnings results for the third quarter on Nov. 29.
Target saw net sales rise 9.7 percent to $4.4 billion for the four weeks, ended Nov. 3, and enjoyed a 4.1 percent increase in same-store sales thanks to increased traffic.
Among the wholesale clubs, Costco said net sales rose 13 percent to $5.2 billion for the four weeks, ended Nov. 4, while domestic comp-store sales grew 7 percent on strength in PCs, TVs and digital cameras.
BJ's reported a 9.2 percent increase in net sales for the four weeks, ended Nov. 3, to $663.8 million and a 4.8 percent hike in comp-store sales. TV was among the month's strongest performers and prerecorded video among the weakest, the company said, and a 3 percent increase in average ticket helped offset flat traffic.
Sharper Image, the struggling novelty CE chain, said net sales for the full month of October fell 32 percent to $25.9 million, and same-store sales slid 8 percent.