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Retail Sales March Ahead

An early Easter helped offset the impact of cold, wet weather and high gasoline prices on broad-line retail sales in March.

Among chains reporting, Wal-Mart said net sales rose 11.7 percent to $18.7 billion at its flagship stores in March, while same-store sales rose 4.8 percent. The company tempered its solid results by warning that April comp sales would likely come in between flat and 2 percent due to the unseasonable weather and Easter’s shift to March.

Target said March sales grew 14.3 percent to $4.4 billion, and same-store sales increased 8.2 percent.

Among warehouse clubs, Costco said net sales rose 10 percent in March to $4.9 billion, and comps grew 6 percent; Sam’s Club said sales rose 5.3 percent to $3.6 billion in March while comps increased 2.1 percent; and BJ’s reported a 7 percent hike in net March sales to $663.9 million with a 3 percent gain in comps.

Costco cited computers, A/V and white goods among its top March performers and photo/camera and media among its slowest. Similarly, BJ’s included TVs among its strongest performing categories for the month and film among its weakest.

Finally, Sharper Image said net sales rose 3 percent in March to $28.6 million while same-store sales fell 9 percent. Separately, the company refuted a Consumer Reports article claiming that its proprietary Ionic Breeze Silent Air Purifiers are ineffective at removing particulate matter and may release dangerous levels of ozone.

“Like many common consumer electronics, the Ionic Breeze and other electrostatic precipitator air cleaners produce trace levels of ozone” that meet the government’s strictest standards, said CEO Richard Thalheimer. A suit filed by Sharper Image over the magazine’s product review was thrown out on First Amendment grounds.

The Ionic Breeze represents about a quarter of the air purifier market and a substantial portion of Sharper Image’s sales.

Sears, which merged with Kmart this month, did not break out its monthly sales.