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March Sales Roar For Broad Line Retailers

New York — National discount chains reported solid sales for March, helped largely by the early Easter weekend.

Wal-Mart said net sales at its namesake stores rose 9.6 percent to $22.1 billion for the five weeks, ended April 6, while same-store sales rose 3.4 percent, driven by strong average ticket and increased customer transactions.

At Target, net sales grew 16.8 percent to $5.6 billion for the five weeks, ended April 7, and same store sales gained 9.2 percent. CEO Bob Ulrich attributed the strong comp performance to the earlier Easter holiday, while the size and quality of customer transactions helped boost total revenue.

Among the wholesale clubs, No. 1 player Costco said net sales for the five weeks, ended April 8, rose 11 percent to $5.9 billion and domestic same-store sales rose 5 percent. Comps were negatively impacted by a shorter reporting period, reflecting the timing of Easter. Financial planning VP Bob Nelson cited strength in computers, A/V, TVs and white goods for the month, and noted that TV continued to lead the hardlines category with a better than 25 percent increase in revenue year-over-year.

At Sam’s Club, net sales rose 8.9 percent to $4.2 billion for the five weeks, ended April 6, while same-store sales grew 7.4 percent. The Wal-Mart unit cited CE among its strongest selling categories in March and reported an increase in customer traffic.

For BJ’s Wholesale Club, net sales increased 10 percent to $790.8 million for the five weeks, ended April 7, while same-store sales rose 5.5 percent, thanks to a 3 percent increase in average transaction amount and a 1 percent gain in store traffic. The No. 3 club cited TVs as among its strongest monthly performers and DVD software among its weakest.

Separately, Sharper Image, the novelty CE chain, said net sales fell 45 percent to $22.1 million and same-store sales fell 29 percent during the month of March.