July Retail Sales Are Strong

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July proved to be yet another strong growth month for retail sales of consumer electronics and appliances, according to reporting dealers, with specialists showing particularly strong increases. Here's a rundown:

Circuit City posted July sales of $834 million at its consumer electronics/appliance retail stores, up 20% from the same month last year. Comparable stores had a 15% revenue rise.

"In July, we experienced strong comparable-store sales growth in all major product categories," said chairman Richard Sharp. "Consumer demand for highly featured consumer electronics products and new technologies remains especially robust."

During the quarter Circuit City opened its 13th outlet in the Atlanta market and launched its Internet superstore which lets e-commerce shoppers choose whether to pick up their purchase at a local retail store or have it delivered.

RadioShack recorded a strong 19% jump in July sales to $297.9 million and a 17% increase at comparable stores. "RadioShack continues to be a leader in the retail industry, demonstrating its strength with five consecutive months of comparable store sales increases in excess of 15%," said Len Roberts, chairman of parent company Tandy. "Our differentiated Compaq offering for August's back-to-school promotion, as well as our plans for telecommunications, direct-to-home satellites, and unique gift products for the remainder of the year, give us confidence that RadioShack should maintain its leadership position with profitable sales increases."

Among software specialists and broad-line retailers:

Ames Department Stores, which acquired the Hills chain earlier this year, had a 53% July sales rise to $236.1 mill and a record 7.2% increase at comparable stores. It said sales increases for home entertainment products "continue to reflect the popularity of our merchandise selections with our customers."

Heilig-Meyers, the home furnishings specialist, had an 8.9% July sales rise at continuing stores to $168.8 million and a 6.7% same-store sales increase.

Kmart chairman Floyd Hall listed consumer electronics and home appliances as being among "categories showing particular strength for July." On a consolidated basis the giant retailer had a 6% sales rise for the month to $2.5 billion, and a 3.8% same-store sales increase.

Musicland reported total July sales of $117.8 million and said same-store sales were up 2.4%. "The continuing strength of CDs and electronics that we've experienced all year remained healthy throughout July to help keep performance on track," said vice chairman Keith Benson.

Sears said sales at ongoing domestic stores rose 2.4% to $2.12 billion for the month, with comparable stores showing a 0.9% rise. "In our full-line stores, strong results in appliances and home office equipment were led by double-digit increases in electric ranges, air conditioners and computers," said chairman Arthur Martinez.

Sharper Image reported a sales increase of 23% for July to $17.7 million, "driven by a 17% increase in comparable-store sales, and a 506% increase in Internet sales." It said retail store sales were up 22% to $12.3 million, catalog volume was flat at $4.1 million and Internet sales jumped to $1.4 million from last year's $226 million.

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