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Conn’s Q3 Sales Fall, Chains’ Oct. Sales Rise

Beaumont, Texas
– Conn’s said
a weak local economy hurt sales during its fiscal third quarter, while national
discount chains posted modest improvements in October.

Net sales at Conn‘s
fell 7.2 percent to $161.4 million for the three months, ended Oct. 31, while comp-store
sales declined 9.3 percent.

The multiregional CE, appliance and furniture chain attributed
the declines to challenging economic conditions within its trading areas, and
difficult year-over-year comparisons that reflect a surge in post-hurricane
replacement sales in 2008.

Specifically, unit growth in flat-panel TV, led by gains in LCD
and plasma, were offset by declines in both average selling prices and sales of
rear projection models during the quarter. Sales of major appliances also
continued to decline, with the majap sales mix falling 10 percent to less than 30
percent of total sales.

Warranty attachments also declined as Conn’s
monitored its sales practices in response to an investigation by the Texas attorney general.

Growth in notebook and netbook computers was offset by declines
in other small CE and appliance products, the company said.

Results were rosier for national discount chains in October.
Among those reporting, Target said net sales were up 2.8 percent to $4.5
billion, although weak CE sales and fewer overall transactions kept same-store
sales flat. In a statement, chairman/CEO Gregg Steinhafel said the company is
entering the holiday season with clean inventories and is “positioned to
perform well in what continues to be a challenging economic environment.”

Costco said net sales rose 7 percent to $5.7 billion in
October, while U.S.
comp-store sales rose 3 percent, excluding the negative impact of lower gas
prices. Comp sales for the chains’ combined CE and appliance business rose by
the mid-single digits, reflecting gains in cameras, PCs, audio equipment and
TVs. The latter enjoyed a 25 percent spike in unit sales but only “slightly
positive” comps due to continued price deflation, Costco said.

At BJ’s Wholesale Club, net October sales rose 3.5 percent
to $764.7 million and same-store sales slipped 1.1 percent excluding fuel. TVs
and computers were among the strongest monthly performers, while video games
and DVDs were among the weakest.