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 comparisons.

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 environment."

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.


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