CE Weighs On Jan. Chain Sales

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New York - National discount chains said weak CE sales were a drag on January results.

Among those reporting their monthly tallies, Target said net retail sales rose 2.2 percent in January to $4.4 billion while comp-store sales edged up 1.7 percent. Chairman, president and CEO Gregg Steinhafel said January comps fell "below expectations, particularly in portions of the South and the Northeast," and that the economic environment is expected to remain challenging.

Target said CE, along with music, movies and books, was the weakest-performing of its hardlines departments, leading the category down by the mid-single digits.

Within the warehouse club channel, Costco said net sales rose 12 percent to $6.3 billion in January, while U.S. comp store sales increased 4 percent excluding the positive impact of gasoline.

Less positive was the impact of CE. Costco reported softness in audio, imaging and navigation, and a mid-single digit decline in TV dollar volume year over year on flat unit sales, which was only partially offset by gains in wireless handsets.

At BJ's Wholesale Club, net January sales rose 6.5 percent to $780 million, and comps sales (excluding gasoline) and traffic were essentially flat to last year, with TV and prerecorded video among the poorest-performing categories.

Separately, BJ's said it may put itself up for sale as it weighs strategic alternatives. The chain has hired Morgan Stanley as its financial advisor for the process.


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