New York — Sales of CE and other back-to-school merchandise helped national full-line discount chains post solid revenue gains in August, allaying fears of a cut-back in consumer spending amid the housing market meltdown.
Wal-Mart said net sales at its flagship discount stores rose 7.8 percent in August to $18.2 billion while same-store sales increased 2.8 percent. The company attributed the gains to “solid sales” of back-to-school goods including laptop computers and other CE. “We are pleased with our performance during August, because it reflects continuing momentum in grocery and electronics,” said Eduardo Castro-Wright, president/CEO of Wal-Mart Stores U.S. “Overall, we are pleased with our inventory position at the end of August.”
No. 2 discount chain Target said net sales rose 11.6 percent to $4.7 billion in August while comparable store sales grew 6.1 percent, reflecting a greater number of transactions and increased average transaction size. Target cited CE among the month’s strongest category performers, and reported that inventory was in “very good condition” at month’s end.
Among the wholesale clubs, Costco’s net sales increased 6 percent company-wide last month to $4.8 billion while comp-store sales rose 1 percent within the United States.
Net sales for the fiscal fourth quarter, ended Sept. 2, rose 3 percent to $20 billion company-wide while comp sales were up 4 percent in the United States. For the full 2007 fiscal year net sales rose 7 percent to $63 billion company-wide and comps rose 5 percent in the United States.
Brown and white goods were among Costco’s strongest performers in August, with comp sales up by the double digits in CE. Leading the charge were TVs, computers and digital cameras.
“The increases were not quite as robust as previous months, but it was still a nice showing given the overall softer month,” a spokesperson said of its hardlines gains.
Costco attributed the soft August results in part to a heat wave in California that curtailed foot traffic in the chain’s most heavily stored state.
Similarly, BJ’s said net sales rose 6.4 percent to $661.7 million while comp sales increased 1.4 percent in August. Comps include a negative impact of 2.4 percent from lower gasoline prices and a negative impact of 0.4 percent from the absence of pharmacy sales vs. last year, the company said.
With the exception of TV, which enjoyed strong comp gains, CE was among the weaker performing categories, BJ’s noted. Strong comp increases were also cited in room air.
At Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club division, net sales rose 6.2 percent in August to $3.3 billion while comp-store sales increased 5.2 percent due in large measure to continuing strength in CE, the company said.