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Attacks Leave A Tough Wake For Retail Sales

The terror attacks left a pall over much of CE retailing in September and October, dealers reported, although sales began rebounding with a vengeance by November.

Best Buy’s total sales for the third quarter ended Dec. 1 were up 27 percent to $4.76 billion, while comparable store sales rose a more meager 1.6 percent. The comp-store figure was boosted 2.4 percent by a fiscal calendar shift that placed more post-Thanksgiving shopping days in the quarter.

On a chain-by-chain basis, Best Buy stores saw sales rise 12 percent to $4.19 billion and comp sales increase 1.6 percent for the quarter. Comps were up 0.3 percent for the company’s Musicland subsidiary, and down double-digits for Magnolia Hi-Fi.

The quarter also included a month of sales, or $124 million, from Future Shop, which the company acquired in November. The Canadian specialty CE chain enjoyed a 6 percent hike in third quarter sales to $350 million, and a 6 percent rise in comp store revenue.

DVD movies and video game hardware and software were among the quarter’s top sales performers, the company said, buoyed by new film releases and the new Xbox and Gamecube platforms.

Vice chairman, president and COO Brad Anderson projected that earnings per share will grow more than 30 percent for the current quarter despite the “unusual pressures on our performance this past quarter.”

At Circuit City, total sales for the third quarter ended Nov. 30 declined 2 percent to $2.28 billion while comp sales slipped 4 percent. Excluding majaps, from which the company completed its exit in November 2000, comp sales were down 2 percent for the period. The company added that comp sales progressively improved each month of the quarter, culminating in a 6 percent gain in November.

President/CEO Alan McCollough attributed new initiatives in customer service, marketing and merchandising for improved sales “across a broad base of product categories,” citing double-digit or better comp gains in big-screen TVs, DSS, digital cameras, video games, wireless, DVD and computer software.

By contrast, November was a soft month for RadioShack, with total sales down 5 percent to $436.6 million and comp sales at company-owned stores off by 3 percent for the month. Chairman/CEO Len Roberts said that while he was “disappointed” by last month’s results, he expects to meet fourth quarter earnings expectations of 66 cents thanks to the chain’s renewed focus on higher margin parts, batteries, accessories and wireless communications.

The quarter was also tough for Good Guys, which saw net sales fall 4 percent to $198 million and comp sales slide 6 percent for the four months ended Nov. 30. President/CEO Ken Weller said that while the terrorist attacks “significantly impacted” September sales and consumer confidence, the chain enjoyed “a solid increase” in in-store traffic and sales, and a Thankgsiving weekend that exceeded expectations.

Similarly, high-end New York area A/V specialist Harvey Electronics reported a 10.4 percent decline in net sales to $7.2 million for its fiscal fourth quarter ended Oct. 27 while comp store sales fell 20.8 percent. Full year sales grew 6.8 percent to $36.7 million while comps slipped less than 1 percent. President Franklin Karp attributed the soft fourth-quarter results to the impact of Sept. 11, the reconstruction of its flagship store and overall weakness at retail, although sales of plasma flat-screen, LCD flat panel and HDTV have been “wildly successful.”

Sales were also soft at Sears. Total revenue for the four weeks ended Dec. 1 were flat at $2.86 billion, while comp sales slipped 1.3 percent. Offsetting weakness in apparel were “strong” comp sales gains in major appliances and electronics, according to chairman/CEO Alan Lacy.

Among the discounters, November sales at Wal-Mart stores grew 12.7 percent to $12.4 billion as comps rose 4.5 percent; sales at Target stores rocketed 23.2 percent to $3.2 billion while comps climbed 12.9 percent; and Kmart’s net fell 1.9 percent to $3.3 billion as comps declined 2.6 percent.

Among the wholesale clubs, Costco’s November net rose 10 percent to $3 billion as comps gained 4 percent; sales at Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club rose 8.5 percent to $2.5 billion as comps increased 3.3. percent; and BJ’s said sales grew 5.8 percent to $450.9 million while comps slid 0.3 percent.

November sales at Sharper Image fell 18 percent to $42.9 million and comp store sales fell 20 percent due to a Razor Scooter frenzy that skewed sales during the year-ago period.