Strong Growth For CE, Majaps During October

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Consumer electronics and major appliances continued to rank among the sales stars in October for reporting retailers, with both specialists and broad-line merchants reporting strong growth. Here's a rundown.

Circuit City reported October retail sales at its consumer electronics/appliance stores rose 14% to a record $758.5 million, with comparable stores logging an 8% rise. The sales figures "reflect continued healthy growth across all our major product categories," said chairman Richard Sharp. Personal computers and newer technologies remain the fastest growing product areas," he added.

During the month, Circuit City opened nine superstores, including its first outlets in the Abilene, Texarkana/Shreveport, Tupelo, Erie and Tuscaloosa markets, and replaced an electronics-only outlet in Huntington, W.Va., with a superstore. It ended the month with 606 stores.

RadioShack posted October sales of $320.3 million, up 15%, according to parent Tandy. Sales at continuing comparable stores rose 11%.

"October was a great start to the all-important holiday selling season. Computers, wireless telephones and toys contributed to the 15% gain. RadioShack's focus on gifts will increase throughout November and December, which should help sustain our sales momentum," stated chairman Len Roberts.

Ultimate Electronics, one of the growing number of specialty retailers who now report sales only on a quarterly basis, said volume for the three months to October 31 increased 20% to $95 million, with same-store sales up 19%.

CEO Ed McEntire said, "Significant dollar and percentage increases were realized in all of our major categories, led by TVs, which increased 27%. As digital product introductions increase, Ultimate Electronics continues to emphasize the sales of these new products. For example, sales of DVD players more than doubled during the third quarter, while sales of HDTV's now represent over 25% of our big-screen TV sales."

McEntire indicated Ultimate expects to report earnings for the quarter of about $1.7 million, which would be up about 36% from the year-earlier $1.25 million and exceed the expectation of Wall Street stock analysts.

President Dave Workman said the performance "demonstrates the widespread acceptance of new digital technologies by consumers." Ultimate has expanded the services it offers to consumers and is continuing its physical growth. During the current quarter, Workman said, the chain will open a remodeled and expanded store in Burnsville, Minn., a new outlet in Davenport, and a larger replacement store in Sioux Falls.

Among broad line merchants:

Kmart cited home electronics as being among product "categories showing particular strength for October" and helping it achieve a 6.3% sales increase for the month to $2.52 billion. Same-store sales were up 3.7%.

Roberds, running counter to the general trend, said October and same-store sales were each off 9.4%. Sales for the month totaled $23.1 million.

Sears reported a 6.2% overall sales increase to $2.19 billion at ongoing domestic stores in October and a 4.7% rise at comparable stores.

Chairman Arthur Martinez said the results show consumers are responding to Sears' "marketing initiatives aimed at communicating our value proposition." The chain's appliance business, he said, "remains strong, showing solid increases across all categories. Kenmore Elite, in particular, is exceeding our expectations. In home electronics, we also are seeing continued increases, particularly in televisions and camcorders."

Value America said total revenue surged 269% in the third quarter to $57.6 million, with consumer products, including electronics and appliances, providing the fastest growth. But while its gross margin more than doubled to 6% of sales, the e-tailer's loss for the period surged to $31.6 million from last year's $15.6 million.


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