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Discounters Report Feb. Sales Gains

New York – National discount chains reported
strong sales increases for February despite lackluster TV sales and the impact
of severe winter weather across much of the country.

The weakness in TV was surprising
given this year’s later start for the Super Bowl and easy year-over-year

Among those reporting monthly sales,


said retail revenue rose 6
percent in February to $4.6 billion and comp-store sales “modestly” exceeded
expectations by edging up 2.4 percent, although sales of hardlines, which
includes CE, were flat.

In a statement, chairman, president
and CEO Gregg Steinhafel said, “We continue to experience year-over-year
increases in guest traffic in our stores, reflecting the relevance of our
strategy and assortment in combination with a slowly recovering economic

Within the wholesale club channel,


said net sales rose 11 percent in February to $5.6 billion, while
comp-store sales rose 2 percent in the U.S., excluding the positive impact
of gasoline sales.

In a conference call, Costco chief financial officer Richard
Galanti said unit sales of TVs were “down very slightly” in February, and that
dollar volume was off by “a little more than that,” although category price
compression had eased to less than 5 percent.

Galanti attributed the comp-sale decline to tough comparisons
with past years, when Costco had enjoyed TV unit sales increases of 30 percent
to 50 percent. He also cited tight TV supplies due to increased demand in
Europe and especially China, where TV sales
exceeded those in the U.S. for the first time
last month.


BJ’s Wholesale Club

February net sales rose 12.8 percent to $755.2 million and comp sales increased
3.9 percent, excluding fuel. The chain said TVs and prerecorded DVDs were among
the month’s weakest performers, and that severe winter storms negatively
impacted February comps by between 2 percent and 2.5 percent. The effect was
offset by the later start date for Super Bowl, which added about 2 percent in
comp gains, BJ’s said.

The reported softness
in TVs was at odds with findings from MasterCard Advisors, which said retail
sales of consumer electronics rose 5.8 percent in February over the year-ago
period. The increase followed a 0.4 percent uptick in January and represents
the sixth consecutive monthly gain in CE sales, the financial consultancy said,
due likely to easy year-over-year comparisons and tighter inventory.