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Early January Retail Results Good

With only a handful of retailers providing results in time for our deadline, January appeared to be yet another successful month for retailers of consumer electronics and appliances. Also, strong demand for movies on DVD bolstered results in the software area.

Rex Stores said merchandise sales rose 8 percent in the quarter to January 31 to $149.6 million, to put its fiscal-2000 sales at $447.6 million, up 12 percent. Sales at stores open at least six full quarters were up 3 percent for the quarter and 8 percent on the year. The stated sales results exclude revenue from extended warranty contracts.

“Our January comparable-store sales increased 10 percent,” said chairman Stuart Rose, “reflecting continued strength in the large-screen television category, as well as rising demand for newer digital products such as DVD players.”

Ultimate Electronics said sales for the quarter to January 31 were up 16 percent to $130.5 million, and sales for fiscal 2000 increased 17 percent to $384.8 million. Same-store sales rose 13 percent for the quarter and 16 percent for the year.

Ultimate “continues to benefit from strong sales in all new digital technology products, including digital TVs, digital camcorders, digital cameras and DVD,” said president Dave Workman, who added that “DVD led all product categories, with a 124 percent increase in sales over the prior year.”

Ames Department Stores CEO Joseph Ettore said, “Home entertainment and appliances led the way in January,” as the expanding chain posted a 61 percent rise in sales to $117.8 million. Same-store sales were up 5.5 percent.

Kmart CEO Floyd Hall said consumer electronics and appliances were among “categories showing particular strength for the month of January.” The chain’s total sales were up 5.4 percent to $2.11 billion, and comparable stores had a 3.9 percent increase.

Sears reported January sales at ongoing domestic retail stores rose 3.5 percent to $1.83 billion, and same-store volume rose 1.7 percent. CEO Arthur Martinez said bad weather hampered sales in much of the South, but volume was “strong in areas of the country not affected by weather. He said the chain had a solid increase in the month’s sales of appliances.

Sharper Image said its sales for the three months to January 31 rose 24 percent to $137.2 million. It put Internet sales at $16.6 million, up 456 percent, while retail-store sales rose 15 percent to $84.7 million, aided by a 13 percent rise at comparable stores. Catalog sales were up 6 percent to $35.9 million.

Musicland reported January sales of $124.3 million, up 3.4 percent, and a 1.9 percent gain at comparable stores. “For the first time ever, DVD sales reached one third of overall video,” said CFO Keith Benson, who credited that performance to the large number of DVD players purchased as gifts during the holiday season.