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Retailers Report Modest July Sales Gains

Retail sales were up moderately in July, tempered by good weather, higher energy prices, fewer discounts and increased travel, merchants and analysts said.

Ultimate Electronics, the sole CE specialist reporting, said total sales for its second fiscal quarter ended July 31 slipped 1 percent to $152.9 million while comparable store sales fell 9 percent. The chain provided no commentary on its results pending an earnings conference call on Aug. 26.

Among full-line merchants, Sears said total July sales fell 4 percent to $1.8 billion while comp sales declined 2.6 percent. Broken out by category, CE sales rose by the low single digits, while sales of major appliances fell by the low single digits, the company said.

Within the discount channel, total sales at Wal-Mart’s flagship stores rose 9.3 percent to $13.8 billion in July, while comps rose 2.4 percent. Total sales for Target’s continuing operations, principally its flagship stores, rose 9.7 percent in July to $3.2 billion while comps rose 4.1 percent. Target Corp. sold its Marshall Field’s department stores to The May Co. for $3.2 billion in June, and sold its Mervyn’s junior department stores to an investment consortium that includes Musicland owner Sun Capital Partners for $1.65 billion in July.

Among wholesale clubs in July, Costco said total sales grew 12 percent to $3.7 billion and comp sales grew 9 percent on strength in computers, A/V and white goods, while total sales at Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club unit rose 8.8 percent to $2.7 billion and comps grew 7.7 percent. At BJ’s, total sales increased 10.2 percent to $532.6 million and comps gained 6.4 percent. Categories with the strongest sales increases included TV, the company said, while room air was among the weaker performing classifications.

At specialty retailer Sharper Image, total sales grew 18 percent last month to $43.2 million, while comp store sales were flat. Founder, chairman and CEO Richard Thalheimer said performance was adversely impacted by limited availability of TV advertising time due to election campaigning, along with increased travel and good summer weather.