Wal-Mart Outperforms as Other Retailers Slide

New York City Many U.S. retailers reported lower November same-store sales, hurt by both the deteriorating economy and the loss of seven post-Thanksgiving holiday shopping days compared to November 2007. Among the biggest exceptions to the downturn were Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and BJ’s Wholesale Club. Several apparel retailers, including Hot Topic, also performed better than analysts had forecast.

Wal-Mart, however, was clearly the star of the month. The chain reported a stronger-than-expected 3.4% rise in U.S. same-store sales, boosted by "record" grocery sales and improved customer traffic as gas prices dropped.

Analysts, on average, were expecting a same-store sales gain of 2.1%.

Wal-Mart said price cuts on food helped drive "record" grocery sales, and falling gas prices meant customers had more money to spend in its stores.

CFO Tom Schoewe said Wal-Mart now expects December same-store sales "near the high-end of our previously stated fourth-quarter guidance of one to 3%."

Wal-Mart said net sales in the month ended Nov. 28 rose 1.6% to $32.21 billion.

Here are some other key results:

  • BJ's Wholesale Club said Thursday that its November same-store sales rose 4.1%, including a 2.1% negative impact from gasoline sales. Excluding gasoline sales, BJ's same-store sales rose 6.2%, the company said. Analysts had expected same-store sales to rise 1.9%. Total sales for the four weeks ended Nov. 29 rose 5.2% to $783.2 million. The warehouse-club operator cited stronger sales of food and consumables for its results, particularly in the fourth week of the month.

  • Costco Wholesale Corp. said its same-store sales dropped 5% in November, dragged down by declining gas prices and foreign-exchange rates. Excluding gasoline deflation and foreign exchange, the company reported a same-store sales increase of 3%. Total sales for the 13 weeks ended Nov. 30 climbed 3% to $17.52 billion. Total same-store sales for the 13-week period grew 1%. Adjusted for gasoline and foreign exchange, total sales climbed 4%.

  • Target Corp. said cautious shopping early in November and fewer after-Thanksgiving shopping days caused same-store sales for the month to fall 10.4%, more than the retailer and analysts expected. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters, on average, expected the company's same-store sales to fall 8.9%. Target had predicted a 6% to 9% decline. Total sales for the four weeks ended Nov. 29 fell 6% to $5.61 billion.

  • TJX Cos.’ same-store sales dropped 12% in November, hurt by declining foreign-currency exchange rates. Excluding the foreign currency impact, same-store sales fell 6%. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters predicted an 8.4% same-store sales decline. Total monthly sales fell 9% to $1.6 billion. Same-store sales for the 43 weeks ended Nov. 29 were flat, but edged up 1% excluding the foreign-currency impact. Total sales for the period rose 3% to $15.3 billion.

  • Fred's Inc. said same-store sales fell 1.8% in November. Total sales during the four weeks ended Nov. 29 fell 6% to $141.7 million from $151.1 million last year. Year-to-date, same-stores sales rose 2.4% while total sales rose 2% to $1.47 billion. Fred’s is in the midst of a restructuring, closing 75 underperforming stores and 22 underperforming pharmacies. Excluding those stores, sales were flat.

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