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June Results Mixed

BY CSA STAFF

New York City Stage Stores Inc. announced Tuesday that its same-store sales were up 1.2% for the five weeks ending July 5; total sales rose 6.4% to $142 million. Results, said the company, were driven by growth across most categories and regions.

San Diego-based PriceSmart also released June results on Tuesday. The company, which operates warehouse clubs in Central America and the Caribbean, said its June same-store sales rose 20%. Total sales for the four weeks ended June 30 rose 25.4% to $92 million from $73.4 million.

The company operated 25 warehouse clubs during the month, compared with 23 in June 2007.

Atlanta-based Haverty Furniture Cos., mirroring a trend that has furnishings retailers in a severe decline, experienced June same-store sales falls of 26.2%.

Total sales for the month fell 24% to $52.9 million from $69.4 million in the prior-year period.

For the second quarter, total sales dropped 10% to $168.4 million from $187.1 million in the second quarter of 2007.

Same-store sales in the quarter dropped 12.7%.

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Additive sales rise along with gas prices

BY CSA STAFF

Record-high gas prices—topping out at a $4.55 per gallon on average in California last month—have consumers searching for ways to get better gas mileage. And that’s why auto retailers are seeing a big increase in sales of fuel additives and other products designed to get maximum performance from car engines.

According to The NPD Group, sales of fuel additives increased 11% during the first four months of the year and are likely to climb even higher this summer. “There’s no doubt consumers are highly motivated to save money at the pump and one way they’re trying to do that is through fuel additives,” said David Portalatin, director of industry analysis for The NPD Group’s automotive division. “And that’s a really dramatic increase given the fact that total auto parts retail sales are up just 2%.”

Consumers are buying products like Lucas fuel-injector cleaner, Gumout and STP gas treatments that help clean engines and keep them running more efficiently. The products range in price from $2 to $12 and are carried at auto part retailers like AutoZone as well as mass merchants.

Those sales are also being driven by a reduction in consumer spending on new cars. “Consumers are putting off buying new cars so more people are driving cars with higher mileage, which is helping drive fuel additive sales,” said Portalatin.

But there’s some skepticism about whether those fuel additives work, something reflected in a study released by the Federal Trade Commission in 2006. “The EPA has evaluated or tested more than 100 alleged gas-saving devices and has not found any product that significantly improves gas mileage,” the study said. “In fact, some gas saving products may damage a car’s engine and no government agency endorses gas-saving devices for cars.”

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CompUSA, back from the dead, grand re-opening in Fla.

BY CSA STAFF

MIAMI —To paraphrase a quote from Mark Twain, reports of CompUSA’s 2007 demise were greatly exaggerated.

While it’s true the once mighty computer retail specialist shuttered it last store in December 2007, more than a dozen locations in Florida are now back in business under the ownership of computer supplier Systemax Inc. The Miami-based company, best known for its Tiger Direct online and mail-order computer business, essentially bought the banner and has reopened 16 stores in Florida and Texas, with more on the way.

“During the [first} quarter, much of our attention was spent on the conversion, refurbishment, restocking and re-opening of 16 CompUSA retail stores,” said Gilbert Fiorentino, president and ceo of Tiger Direct during a first-quarter conference call on June 17. “This included all new point of sale and other IT systems, restocking of stores with new inventory and grand opening events and promotions.”

Though the relaunched CompUSA Web site and the few stores open before March 31 generated only $18 million in income for the quarter, the company expects sales to pick up this summer as customers rediscover the stores. Fiorentino also said the company has signed direct deals for CompUSA with more than a dozen CE suppliers including Sony, Nokia, Mitsubishi and Bose.

Systemax plans to build the CompUSA store base with several new openings this year and by integrating its eight Tiger Direct retail stores in the United States and Canada into CompUSA.

“We currently have plans to open three more stores, two in Canada and one in Florida,” said Fiorentino. “Long term, we intend to re-brand our Tiger Direct stores as CompUSA, leaving us with a single brand retail strategy in the [United States].”

What’s unclear is how Systemax plans to make its CompUSA stores stand out in an intensely competitive market that drove the original chain out of business. (Fiorentino could not be reached for comment about the company’s strategy.) The 23-year-old chain closed 126 stores in March 2007 and the remaining 103 stores last fall, amid heavy losses and sharp declines in same-store sales.

“Tiger Direct has a decent catalog and online business, but catalog companies usually don’t do very well at the store level,” said George Whalin, president of Retail Management Consultants. “They still have to contend with Best Buy, which continues to grow and get stronger, and even Circuit City.”

Whalin suggested the stores might try to replicate the Tiger Direct online business model, which sells private-label and name-brand computers and computer supplies at low prices.

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