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CE Dealer Sales Strong For March, First Quarter

Reporting consumer electronics and appliance specialty retailers had strong sales performances for March and the year’s opening quarter, though same-store growth was stronger for national chains than for the regionals. Mass merchants too shared in the demand growth. Here’s a rundown:

Circuit City said it had March sales of $744.2 million at its electronics/appliance retail stores, up 15%. Same-store sales were up 9% for the month.

“The sales trends we enjoyed in fiscal 1999 have extended into fiscal 2000,” said CEO Richard Sharp. “We continued to produce strong sales across all product categories”

The Good Guys, which reports sales quarterly, said revenues for the three months ending March 31 totaled $219.1 million, up 5%, while sales for the first six months of fiscal 1999 grew 3% to $513.2 million. Same-store sales edged up 1% for the quarter and were flat for first half of the fiscal year.

RadioShack sales rose 16% to $297 million and comparable-store volume jumped 15%, parent Tandy reports.

“Sales of wireless communications, direct-to-home satellite systems and prepaid wireless airtime were extremely strong,” said CEO Len Roberts. Given the strong March results, he said first-quarter earnings per share are expected to exceed the company’s target of 15% to 20% growth.

Tweeter Home Entertainment, which reports sales quarterly, said total sales for the three months ending March 31 grew 14.2% to $62.2 million, while same-store sales were up 1% for the period.

“Sales of digital products continued to drive our business,” said CFO Joe McGuire, with projection TVs up 30% and camcorder sales ahead 21% for the quarter. Digital products comprise one third of Tweeter’s projection TV business and 48% of its camcorder sales, he said.

Tweeter president Jeff Stone said that February sales were hurt by inventory shortages at Home Entertainment of Texas, which was acquired that month. Stone attributed the shortages to prior management, which mistakenly canceled inventory purchase orders.

During February the chain opened a Tweeter outlet in Auburn, Mass., raising its total store count to 61.

As for the mass merchants:

Ames said March sales shot up 57.6% to $318.9 million, fueled largely by the recent acquisition of Hills Stores. Minus Hills’ help, same-store sales rose 15.4%. CEO Joseph Ettore said home entertainment and furniture were “particularly strong” during the month, showing double-digit increases.

BJ’s Wholesale Club said March sales increased 16.5% to $339 million and same-store sales grew 7.7%. CEO Jack Nugent said that the gains were buoyed in part by strong demand for computer peripherals and accessories.

Fred’s, based in Memphis, said sales rose 10.1% to $60.2 million in March, while same-store sales increased 2.1%. CEO Michael Hayes cited electronics and home furnishings, in part, for the sales gains, which were helped in turn by the early Easter.

Sears said domestic stores had sales of $2.62 billion, up 3.4% on an ongoing operations basis, with same-store volume up 2.1%.

“Home electronics sales were strong, especially in big-screen televisions and camcorders, while strong sales of washers and dryers contributed to the solid performance of home appliances,” said CEO Arthur Martinez.

On the software side, Musicland said continued “solid growth” of CDs, DVD, video games, electronics and accessories led to a 7.5% sales spike to $159.7 million, and an 8.2% increase at ongoing comparable stores. Vice chairman Gil Wachsman also cited an early Easter and the strength of its Media Play and On Cue superstores for the sales gains.