Retailers Report Soft December CE Sales

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Best Buy, hhgregg and Sears, as well as major discounters, all reported soft December CE sales.

Best Buy

said soft TV demand and a sharp dip in entertainment software sell-through took its net sales down 1.6 percent in December to $8.4 billion.

In the U.S., revenue declined 3.2 percent to $6.5 billion and comp-store sales fell 5 percent. Domestic sales were hurt by a low double-digit decline in TVs, which dragged CE category comps down 7.9 percent, and by a 15.4 percent drop in music, movies and gaming titles year over year.

The declines were partially offset by brisk demand for e-readers, a 10.9 percent increase in major appliance comps, and a 7.6 percent gain from the chain’s services sector year over year, Best Buy said.

Other categories showing strength last month included mobile phones, where sales of smartphones led a low-double-digit compsales increase, and mobile computing, where a mid-single-digit comp-sales increase was driven by tablet computers.

also posted solid gains, as online sales rose 13 percent year over year.


reported lower comp-store sales for its fiscal third quarter, ended Dec. 31, 2010.

For the fiscal third quarter 2011, the chain estimated net sales to be $653.7 million, an increase of approximately 30.6 percent as compared with the $500.4 million of net sales reported in the fiscal third quarter last year.

But comp-store sales for the quarter are estimated to decrease 6.2 percent, with the video category expected to decrease 5.9 percent, the appliance category expected to decrease 5.7 percent, and the other category expected to decrease 7.9 percent.

Dennis May, president and CEO, commented, “While we are pleased with our overall sales and market share gains in the video category, our mix of video product was different than our expectations going into the holiday selling season. Industry sales from newer technologies like LED and 3D TV increased less than expected, and our mix of entry-point televisions was higher than anticipated, which negatively impacted our merchandise gross margin.”

Weakness in


CE and major appliances businesses dragged same-store sales down 5.3 percent in November and December. More than half the decline was attributable to CE, Sears said, although majaps also contributed to the downturn.

The decline was steepest in December, when samestore sales fell 6 percent, giving Sears a 3.8 percent yearto- date decline in comp sales through Jan. 1.

In contrast, sister discounter


posted positive comps across the board, with same-store sales up 3.4 percent in November and December, 2.3 percent in December, and nearly 1 percent year to date through Jan. 1.

Kmart attributed the holiday-period gains to the popularity of its layaway program and strength in its non-CE hardlines categories.

Among the discounters,


said net sales rose 1.4 percent to $9.9 billion while comp-store sales edged up 0.9 percent due to “softness” in CE and other categories.



, CE comp sales fell by the high single digits due to TV price declines and a modest mid-single-digit gain in unit volume, plus weakness in cameras and portable navigation devices. Net December sales rose 11 percent to $9.2 billion, and U.S. comp sales rose 3 percent excluding gasoline, Costco said.

Fellow warehouse club


said net sales rose 7.3 percent to $1.3 billion and comp sales increased 1.4 percent excluding gasoline. Top performers included computers and video games, while packaged video was among the weakest.

— Reported by Alan Wolf and Steve Smith


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