January clearance events and gift card redemptions helped drive retail sales last month, although results were tempered by torrential rains in the West and snowstorms in the Midwest and East.
The world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart, reported that January sales at its flagship discount stores rose 10.7 percent over the year-ago period to $13.2 billion, while same store sales rose 3.2 percent, compared with 5.3 percent last year.
Sears, the nation's second largest full-line merchant, said total sales edged up 1.7 percent in January to $1.6 billion, while same store sales increased 0.8 percent companywide on the strength of the its hardware and Great Indoors specialty stores, whose comps rose by the high single digits. Comparable sales at Sears' flagship stores were flat.
Chairman/CEO Alan Lacy said he was pleased with the company's performance last month, and singled out plasma and flat-panel LCD TVs for their “sharply higher sales.” Nevertheless, total CE comps fell by the low single digits, and comp sales of major appliances were flat.
At Target, total January sales grew 13.6 percent to $3.1 billion and comparable store sales rose 9.4 percent.
Among the warehouse clubs, Costco said total sales rose 7 percent to $3.7 billion in January and comps at its domestic stores grew 3 percent. Wal-Mart's Sam's Club posted a 1.4 percent gain in total January sales to $2.5 billion while comps slipped 0.8 percent, and BJ's reported a 4.9 percent hike in total monthly revenue to $495.9 million and a 1.9 percent increase in comps.
Costco cited computers, A/V and majaps among its strongest sellers, while DVD movies and TVs led BJ's sales climb, offsetting declines in computer equipment and white goods, the company said.
Costco added that last month's severe rain and flooding in California, frost in the South, and blizzards throughout the Midwest and East adversely impacted its business.
Lastly, novelty CE merchant Sharper Image said companywide sales fell 4 percent last month to $45.3 million and same store sales slipped 9 percent. CEO Richard Thalheimer cited an “increasingly competitive landscape” and said the company is working to strengthen its distinctive product selection of proprietary products.