FINANCE

Wal-Mart Outperforms as Other Retailers Slide

BY CSA STAFF

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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Best Buy: Americans concerned about buying the right gift

BY CSA STAFF

MINNEAPOLIS A recent Best Buy nationwide survey found that three-quarters of Americans, while concerned about price, say that getting someone the right gift is their number one priority. In addition, when it comes to consumer electronics gifts, customers say assurance and advice are top priorities when they are making purchase decisions.

The Best Buy survey shows one out of four consumers (25%), believe the right gift this year is consumer electronics, and price isn’t all that drives their decisions. When buying electronics gifts, shoppers want a retailer that offers a good return policy (85%), post purchase technical support (80%), price matching for their purchases (79%) and knowledgeable salespeople to provide good advice (76%).

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Whole Foods add new board members

BY CSA STAFF

AUSTIN, Texas Whole Foods Market announced that it recently has added four new members to its board of directors, bringing the size of the board to ten.

The new board members include Stephanie Kugelman, vice chairman emeritus of Young & Rubicam Inc. and chairman of A Second Opinion strategic consulting group, and Kip Tindell, chairman and ceo of The Container Store. Additionally, Jonathan Seiffer, partner, and Jonathan Sokoloff, managing partner, both of Leonard Green & Partners, L.P. (LGP), have also joined the board in connection with LGP’s recent preferred stock investment in Whole Foods Market. Whole Foods Market closed its sale of preferred stock to LGP today.

“These four talented leaders bring unique wisdom and complement the experience of our current board members,” said John Mackey, chairman, ceo, and co-founder of Whole Foods Market. “In this challenging economic environment, we feel fortunate to have this fresh addition of intellectual capital.”

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