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Dealers Duck Retail Doldrums

NEW YORK — While a slowing economy and higher energy costs continue to weigh heavily upon most broadline merchants, CE specialists sailed through September with significant year-over-year sales gains.

RadioShack, for one, reported a 19 percent spike in September sales at its company-owned and franchised stores to $375.9 million. More tellingly, same-store sales at company-owned units rose 16 percent, representing the chain’s best monthly same-store increase of the year.

“Sales of computers, digital A/V products and wireless phones continue to drive our growth,” said chairman/president/CEO Len Roberts, who expects demand for digital products to “remain very robust” through the holiday season.

Specifically, PC sales were up 50 percent over September 1999 — when computers slumped 14 percent — while wireless grew as much as 30 percent in both units and dollars. A/V volume was up 25 percent year-over-year, the company reported.

Year-to-date, RadioShack’s total sales were up 15 percent to $3.1 billion, while comp-store revenue rose 12 percent.

Sales were also sweeter for Tweeter Home Entertainment, which reports its revenue quarterly. For the three months ended Sept. 30, sales grew 30.6 percent to $97.2 million, boosted by last April’s acquisition of United Audio Centers. For the trailing 12 months, total revenue rocketed 43 percent to $404.7 million.

Excluding United Audio, comp-store sales grew 9.4 percent for the quarter — on top of a 5.2-percent increase over the same period last year — and were ahead 13.5 percent for the 12-month period year-to-year.

President/chief operating officer Jeff Stone said Tweeter was “pleased” with its quarterly comp-store performance and noted that a “well-balanced product mix” is yielding high margins for the high-end chain.

Specifically, projection TV sales were up 51 percent for the three-month period, DVD dollar volume grew 48.7 percent, and tube TV sales rose 14.7 percent.

According to chief financial officer Joe McGuire, digital products comprised 29.3 percent of the quarterly sales mix, with DTV representing 49.6 percent of projection-set sales and 29.7 percent of tube-set sales. Similarly, digital camcorders claimed 96.6 percent of total camcorder volume, prompting the company to exit the analog camcorder category completely following the holiday selling season.

By contrast, Sears said sales for the five weeks ended Sept. 30 were up 4.2 percent to $2.63 billion and that same-store revenue rose 3 percent. According to newly installed president/CEO Alan Lacy, home appliances continued to lead the product pack with “positive sales trends,” while Sears’ The Great Outdoors home-goods specialty chain, whose mix includes majaps and CE, enjoyed “strong increases.”