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Retailers Report Solid September Sales

New York — Retail sales remained relatively unscathed in September despite major back-to-back hurricanes and soaring gasoline prices.

Results were particularly robust for specialty A/V chain Tweeter Home Entertainment, whose net revenue rose 9 percent to $189 million for the four months ended Sept. 30, while same-store sales grew 10 percent.

The company attributed the gains to a new marketing campaign, last quarter’s closure of 18 underperforming stores, increasing marketplace demand for advanced TVs, and even a slight uptick in audio sales.

President/CEO Joe McGuire said Tweeter’s sales growth was broad based, with nine of its 11 sales regions showing comparable store gains.

For brown- and white-goods regional chain Conn’s, whose headquarters town was directly hit by Hurricane Rita, net sales rose 25 percent and comp-store sales grew 12 percent in August, while net September sales through Sept. 17, the weekend of the hurricane, hit $40 million, exceeding sales for all of September 2004, according to CEO Tom Frank.

Among discounters, net sales at Wal-Mart’s flagship stores rose 8.4 percent in September to $18.6 billion while comp sales edged up 2.6 percent, and net sales at Target grew 11.4 percent to $4.3 billion while comps gained 5.6 percent.

Among wholesale clubs, Costco’s net global sales rose 13 percent to $5.1 billion in September, while domestic comps grew 10 percent (8 percent excluding gas price hikes). Total September sales at Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club division grew 11.6 percent to $3.8 billion against comp gains of 9.8 percent (6.3 percent excluding gasoline sales), and BJ’s net September revenue rose 8.7 percent to $736 million while comps grew 3.8 percent, blunted by weakness in PC products, movies, and video game hardware and software.

Elsewhere, Sharper Image said net sales in September fell 21 percent to $36.6 million, with a matching percentage decline in comps. Founder, chairman and CEO Richard Thalheimer attributed the drop to “a general weakness in consumer confidence which reduced store traffic and lowered spending,” plus the impact of the two Gulf hurricanes which closed seven stores and hurt sales throughout the region.