By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Following a challenging December, retailers enjoyed significant year-over-year sales increases last month, which helped many work down excess inventories.
Boosting the percentage gains were solid post-holiday sales of digital products, as well as depressed year-ago revenues. Stagnant sales in January 2000 were attributable to a wallet-busting fourth-quarter 1999 that was fueled by Y2K stockpiling and a still booming economy.
Among CE chains, RadioShack said sales of computers helped same-store revenue rise 13 percent to $370.3 million at company-owned and franchised units last month, while comp-store sales of company-owned stores alone rose 9 percent in January.
"We are off to a good start in 2001 by meeting our plan of mid-to-upper single-digit comparable-store sales increases," commented chairman/CEO Len Roberts. "Our strong sales results in January were led by our parts, accessories and batteries category, and computers, with the computer category showing the strongest gain."
Fueled by growing interest in digital products, Ultimate Electronics, which reports on a quarterly basis, posted sales in its fiscal fourth quarter that jumped 30 percent, to $170 million, compared with $130.7 million in the same three months last year.
Sales for the fiscal year ending Jan. 31 climbed 26 percent to $484.2 million, compared with $385 million in fiscal 1999.
The high-end CE specialty chain said comp-store sales were up 6 percent in January, despite two fewer weekend days, compared with the same month last year. Comp-store sales jumped 13 percent for the fiscal year.
"For the remainder of fiscal 2002, we continue to plan for 6 percent comp-store increases and expect to open eight to nine stores during the year," said CEO Ed McEntire. The company plans to open the first of these in March, followed by four in the third quarter and three to four in the fourth.
Said Ultimate president/chief operating officer Dave Workman, "We are pleased with the current trends in all new digital technologies. With industry expectations for this year of over 1 million HDTV sets to be sold to consumers, this product, as well as digital still cameras, camcorders and DVD, should provide the catalyst for Ultimate Electronics to perform above industry averages."
Among full-line merchants, Sears said sales of major appliances and consumer electronics helped propel retail revenue 3.9 percent, to $2.3 billion, for the five weeks ending Feb. 3, while comparable-store sales increased 2.6 percent for the period.
"Overall, hardlines delivered strong gains, with double-digit increases in several categories as consumers purchased appliances, electronics and sporting goods," said chairman/CEO Alan Lacy. "Off the mall, dealer stores and The Great Indoors generated solid sales increases."
For the 53-week period, Sears' retail revenue rose 3.7 percent to $30.4 billion, while comp-store sales edged up 2.4 percent.
Among wholesale membership clubs, BJ's Wholesale Club reported a 15.2 percent sales hike last month to $411 million, while fourth-quarter revenue rose 11.6 percent to $1.5 billion, and sales for the fiscal year ended Feb. 3 increased 15.2 percent to $4.8 billion.
On a comp-store basis, sales were up 7.3 percent in January, 3.2 percent for the fourth quarter and 5.1 percent for the fiscal year.
BJ's president/CEO Jack Nugent noted that video game software, TVs and "newer" electronics categories such as DVD players, digital cameras and computer accessories helped lead last month's sales charge, although sales of computers faltered.
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.