Consumer Electronics Drive July Retail Sales

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New York -- Electronics, rather than appliances, drove retail revenue higher in July, as cool summer climes brought air conditioner sales to a warehouse-bulging halt.

RadioShack said sales of digital products, wireless communications, computers and A/V products spurred a 13-percent hike in total store sales last month to $337.9 million, while comparable-store sales at company-owned units rose 12 percent.

CEO Len Roberts pointed out that July's comp-store increases were the second double-digit monthly gain in a row for the chain and came on top of last year's 17-percent spurt.

Ultimate Electronics, which reports its sales quarterly, said revenue for the four months ended July 31 was up 21 percent to $101.8 million, while same-store sales rose 15 percent. For the six-month period, sales also rose 21 percent, to $196.9 million, with comp-store sales ahead 16 percent.

President Dave Workman attributed the double-digit gains to "strong sales in all new digital technology products, including DTV, camcorders, cameras and DVD." He noted that sales of projection TVs were up 33 percent for the quarter, with DTVs now comprising 65 percent of projection model sales. The specialty chain also said it sold 2,883 HD-ready TVs last quarter, compared to 727 during the year-ago period.

Sears said "strong sales increases" in home electronics, among other hardlines categories, helped push July revenue up 3.3 percent to $2.1 billion and comp-store sales ahead 1.8 percent. CEO Arthur Martinez noted, however, that "appliance sales, which have been strong throughout the year, were impacted by slower air conditioner sales due to dramatically cooler weather compared to unusually high temperatures last July."

Among the discount trade, regional player Ames said July sales were up 5.9 percent to $242.7 million, though same-store sales were down 2.6 percent. CEO Joseph Ettore noted that "although July comp sales did not meet our expectations, we did realize some favorable results in certain categories, including home entertainment."

Musicland Stores sales rose 3.4 percent to $121.9 million, while same-store sales edged up 2 percent in July, thanks to "ongoing strength in DVDs and electronics," said vice chairman Keith Benson.

North of the border, Canadian specialty retailer Future Shop reported a 16 percent gain in July sales to $120.9 while comp-store revenue grew 17 percent. President Kevin Layden said, "Sales of digital products have continued to enhance our performance."

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