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June Sales Spike At Discount Stores

New York — Rebate checks, retail promotions and soaring gasoline prices helped stoke sales at national discount chains last month.

Wal-Mart, the world’s largest merchant, reported a 10.1 percent increase in net sales at its flagship stores in June, to $25.3 billion. Same store sales rose 6.1 percent.

The entertainment category was especially strong with comparable store sales of flat panel TVs continuing to grow by the high double digits, Wal-Mart said, while the economic stimulus checks contributed to increased store traffic.

Frank Badillo, senior economist at TNS Retail Forward, a market research firm and consultancy, said “The tax rebates that gave discount retailers a big boost in June will remain the driver of consumer spending for the next few months.”

But strip out the tax rebates and “shoppers are in pretty bad shape,” he said.

At Target, net sales rose 6.6 percent in June to $5.8 billion although same store sales were essentially flat, edging up 0.4 percent. The chain attributed the weak comps to a decline in the number of transactions, offset by an increase in average transaction size.

Among the warehouse clubs, Costco said higher gas prices helped drive net sales up 12 percent to $7.1 billion. Comp sales climbed 9 percent no thanks to CE and white goods, which together fell by the mid-single digits. Costco cited ongoing softness in TV, audio and computer sales, which were offset by increases in cameras, navigation devices and room air.

At Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club, June sales grew 8.9 percent to $4.8 billion while comps increased 8.3 percent, largely on sales of fuel. Video game software was among the best-performing general merchandise categories, the company said.

At BJ’s Wholesale Club, June sales soared nearly 19 percent to $1 billion and same store sales grew 16.5 percent, with nearly half of the comp gains attributable to gasoline. Room air was among the stronger merchandise categories for the month and electronics, including TVs, were among the weakest, the retailer said.

Separately, Office Depot earlier this week reported a nearly 10 percent drop in same store sales at its North American locations during its second fiscal quarter, which it attributed to the challenging economic environment and weakening business conditions.