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Retail Sales Cool In April

New York — Cool weather and an early Easter caused consumers to tighten their wallets in April, dealers said, easing a three-month run-up in retail sales.

Among CE retailers reporting revenue was Ultimate Electronics, whose sales for the first quarter, ended April 30, slipped 2 percent to $152.5 million while same store sales fell 11 percent. In contrast with most full-line merchants, president/CEO Dave Workman said April sales actually improved over February and March, with comparable store sales down 2 percent for the month. Comps were “slightly positive” after adjusting for the chain’s exit from the computer and gaming categories.

Workman suggested that February and March sales were impacted by “a number of sales, operational and cost initiatives, including significant changes to our management structure at the store level and a restructuring of our commission pay plan.”

Elsewhere, Sears said major appliances and CE helped stave off steeper declines in April, when sales slipped 2.8 percent to $1.9 billion and comps dipped 1.8 percent. Sears’ chairman/CEO Alan Lacy attributed the downturn to one fewer week of pre-Easter holiday sales, but pointed to “continued positive sales momentum in our Home Group, as we recorded strong revenue increases in home appliances and consumer electronics in April.” Both categories enjoyed mid-single-digit gains for the month, the company said.

Among discount chains, Wal-Mart’s flagship stores saw April sales rise 10.5 percent to nearly $14 billion and comps gain 3.6 percent, while Target’s flagship stores enjoyed a 13.9 percent revenue hike to $3.1 billion as comps grew 6.2 percent last month.

Among wholesale clubs in April, Costco’s sales rose 13 percent to $3.6 billion and domestic comps grew 10 percent; Sam’s Club’s sales rose 9.7 percent to $2.7 billion and comps grew 8.3 percent; and BJ’s’ sales rose 10.8 percent to $505.3 million and comps grew 5.4 percent. BJ’s cited room air and CE as two of its weaker categories.

Specialty chain Sharper Image said total April sales grew 20 percent to $46 million although comp sales declined 3 percent, due in part to this year’s later mailing of the company’s May catalog.