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Retailers Report Moderate Sales In November

Sharp Thanksgiving weekend promotions failed to drive significant monthly sales gains at many of the nation’s full-line discount chains in November.

At Wal-Mart, where $378 HP notebooks and other CE bargains led to sporadic scuffles on Black Friday morning, total sales climbed 10.5 percent to $17.4 billion for the four weeks ended Nov. 25. But comparable store sales edged up only 3.8 percent over last year’s flat November, when Wal-Mart temporarily retreated from its policy of aggressive holiday pricing.

Target, which showed restraint in its early-bird specials last month, recorded a moderate 2.6 percent increase in same store sales, compared to a 3.2 percent gain during the year-ago period. Net sales were up 9.1 percent to $4.6 billion.

Target said the comp results were in line with the company’s lowered expectations, and cited a “slight decline” in the number of transactions.

Among the warehouse clubs, Costco said same-store sales rose 6 percent domestically (and 7 percent during the last week of November alone), while company-wide revenue grew 9 percent to $4.5 billion on the strength of computer, A/V and white-goods sales, among other categories.

Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club unit saw same-store sales climb 7 percent, while net sales increased 8.5 percent to $3.2 billion last month.

BJ’s Wholesale Club said November comp sales edged up 1.8 percent and net sales grew 5.3 percent to $621.8 million on the strength of TV sales and other categories, while sales of computer equipment and DVDs declined year-over-year.

Elsewhere, business continues to be soft for Sharper Image, the novelty CE chain. Total sales fell 24 percent in November to $60 million, while comparable-store sales fell 11 percent, Internet sales slipped 26 percent and catalog/direct marketing sales sank 50 percent.

The declines “reflect a continuation of recent weaker sales trends compared to last year,” said Richard Thalheimer, chairman/CEO. “While our new products are generally performing as planned, we continue to see year over year declines in select key merchandise categories”—including its once best-selling Ionic Breeze air purifier, which was lambasted last year by Consumer Reports magazine.