New York - The weak economy continued to take its toll among retailers last month, although discount chains and warehouse clubs appeared to benefit from consumers' buy-at-a-bargain focus.
Among merchants reporting monthly results, Sears said total revenue was essentially flat with a 0.1 percent increase to $2.8 billion for the five weeks ended July 7, while comparable store sales declined 0.5 percent. The numbers would have been worse were it not for white goods, noted chairman/CEO Alan Lacy, who explained that 'Strong sales increases in appliances were offset by decreases across other categories' in Sears' full-line stores.
The sales story was quite different among the Big Three discount chains. Wal-Mart, for one, reported a 14.9 percent revenue hike at its chain stores to $13.1 billion, and a 6.8 percent gain in same store sales for the five weeks ended July 6. Target stores were also up double digit, posting an 11.1 percent rise in revenue to $2.8 billion and a 3.2 percent uptick in comp store sales for the five weeks ended July 1. Kmart continued to lag its peers as net sales slipped 0.1 percent to $3.5 billion and same-store sales showed a slim 1.1 percent gain for the five weeks ended July 4.
June was also busting out all over for the warehouse clubs. Category leader Costco said net sales rose 12 percent to $3.5 billion and comps increased 5 percent for the five weeks ended July 8. The No. 2 player, Wal-Mart's Sam's Club division, showed a 10.6 percent hike to $2.8 billion and a comp store gain of 7.1 percent, while BJ's Wholesale Club saw sales rise 8.5 percent to $508 million and comps grow 4 percent last month on the strength of room air conditioners and video and DVD software. Weaker categories for BJ's included computer software and TVs, the company said.
On the specialty store front, Sharper Image said store sales slipped 10 percent in June to $17.3 million and that comps crashed by 15 percent due largely to the exceptionally strong year-ago period, when scooter sales sent comps soaring 33 percent. Minus last year's scooter sales, June 2001 comps would have been up 5 percent, the company said Future Shop Canada's largest CE specialty chain, said monthly sales ended July 7 grew 11 percent to $170 million while same store revenue rose 13 percent, lead by especially strong gains in communications, home theater and entertainment software. The company noted that net sales would have been up 17 percent minus the impact of the closure of its Computer City stores in February.