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Sears’ Majaps Bolster Comps Sales, CE Soft

Hoffman Estates, Ill.
– Comp-store sales at Sears’ flagship stores edged up 0.3 percent during the
three months ending April 21 thanks to increased demand for major appliances.

The retailer attributed the majap
sales gains to the launch of new products under its private-label Kenmore brand, and consumer response to the federally funded
“cash for appliances” stimulus program.

Conversely, CE proved to be the
softer side of Sears during the quarter, with the company reporting lower sales
in that category.

At sister chain Kmart, comp sales
rose 3.2 percent on strength in apparel, home and toys.

Parent company Sears Holdings said
first-quarter earnings for the period ending May 1 would be between $0 and $35
million, compared with a year-ago profit of $26 million.

In a research note,
Credit Suisse retail analyst Gary Balter called the results “disappointing in the context of
competitors and even by the company’s own standards.” Sears’ majap sales still
lag the industry’s estimated double-digit increases even with the artificial
boost from the federal appliance rebate program, he wrote, while Kmart’s productivity remains “so low, it’s difficult for the 3 percent
comps to translate into profits.”