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Lowe’s Predicts 19% Increases In 4th-Qtr. Sales

WILKESBORO, N.C. -Lowe’s Companies expects overall sales to jump 19 percent in the fourth fiscal quarter ending Feb. 2, reaching $4.5 billion, compared with the same three months in fiscal 1999.

However, the retailer expects comp-store sales in the fourth quarter to be below its prior guidance of a 1-3 percent gain. Comp-store sales should decrease 2-4 percent for the 14 weeks ended Feb. 2, compared with a similar period the previous year.

“It is clear that softer sales trends will be difficult to overcome over the balance of the quarter,” said chairman/CEO Robert L. Tillman.

Lowe’s, which expects to complete the last quarter and fiscal 2000 with about 650 stores in 40 states, said gross margin should decline 25 to 35 basis points on a year-over-year basis, while SG & A expenses are expected to deleverage 50 to 60 basis points on a year-over-year basis.

Looking to 2001, Lowe’s predicts sales growth of 18-20 percent, reflecting a 52-week year in 2001, compared with a 53-week year in 2000. Lowe’s store expansion plan for 2001 calls for 115 to 125 new units, including 15 to 20 store relocations. A comp-store sales increase of 3-5 percent is expected, as is an annual gross margin increase of 20 to 25 basis points.

Lowe’s said total sales should climb about 20 percent per year in 2002 and 2003. At the same time, the retailer expects a comp-store sales rise of 4-6 percent during these years. It also expects annual gross margin improvements of 20 to 25 basis points and an operating margin increase of 25 to 30 basis points.