April Sales Mild In Wake Of War

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New York - Sales were mixed for retailers reporting sales for April and the first quarter.

The lone CE specialty chain among the bunch, Ultimate Electronics, posted a 9 percent sales gain for the quarter ended April 30 to $155.2 million, although comparable store sales were down 8 percent for the period.

The company re-iterated that sales were impacted by the war in Iraq and a severe snowstorm that affected its Colorado stores.

Fellow upmarket A/V specialist Good Guys, which won't report its first fiscal quarter results until May 31, nonetheless projected that sales will be down 12 to 15 percent for the period based on business during the first two-and-a-half months. 'Like other higher-end retailers, Good Guys' store traffic and overall sales volume has been negatively impacted by the economic environment, the war in Iraq and the resulting decisions by many consumers to defer major, high-ticket purchases,' said chairman/CEO Ken Weller.

Weller added that he is looking forward to increased consumer confidence now that the war has ended and the economy is showing signs of improvement.

Among mass merchants, Sears said total sales in April fell 8 percent to nearly $2 billion, while comp store sales slipped 8.5 percent, its 20th consecutive month of declines. Contributing to the fall-off was a slump in consumer electronics sales that the company pegged in the high teens, while its core home appliance business continued to falter, down mid-single digits.

At its annual shareholders meeting earlier this month, Sears also disclosed plans to open a pilot store, dubbed Sears Grand, near Salt Lake City this fall to test new quick-turn merchandise, including CDs and DVDs, that would support current product categories and spur traffic.

Discounters sang a happier tune. Wal-Mart, despite coming in under projections, enjoyed a 12.2 percent sales gain for its flagship stores, to $12.6 billion, and a 5.1 percent hike in same-store revenue.

Similarly, Target said it flagship discount stores enjoyed a 14 percent hike in revenue to $2.6 billion as comp store sales grew 5.6 percent.

Even beleaguered Kmart, which emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection earlier this month with $2 billion in exit financing, a new chairman, and 600 fewer stores, eked out a 1.1 percent improvement in same-store sales in April, thanks in part to a late Easter. The increase, which was the first monthly gain since August 2001, excluded liquidation sales from 316 stores that ran through April 13.

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