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April Tells Tale of Two Retail Segments

New York Soaring gas prices took their toll on those least able to afford them during April, and the pain was felt at the places where they shop, the nation's big discounters, where same-store sales dried up.

Driving home the point was Target Stores, where comps edged up just 1.3 percent, far off their 8.2 percent increase during March. Ditto Wal-Mart, where same-store sales were flat, crawling ahead 0.1 percent, compared with March's stronger gain of 4.3 percent. Hardest hit was ShopKo Stores, where same-store sales plunged 12.8 percent, worsening after a 3.6 percent drop the month before.

But the rich will always be with us, unruffled by higher gas prices, and sales at luxury retailers continued to soar in April — Neiman Marcus shooting up 14.2 percent; Saks Fifth Ave. up 7.1 percent; and Nordstrom gaining 6.9 percent.

Mid-tier retailers turned in a mixed but mostly predictable performance, with the historically strong getting stronger and the habitually weak, still weak. Kohl's sales, climbing back on track, shot up 8 percent; Penney rose 3.6 percent; and Federated was up 2.8 percent. May, on the other hand, edged up 1.5 percent, and Dillard's sank 6 percent.

Warehouse clubs, which attract their share of upscale shoppers filling the trunks of their BMWs with off-price goods, turned in a sharply stronger performance than their sibling discounters. A case in point was Sam's, whose 4.9 percent gain outdid Wal-Mart's weak 0.1 percent. BJ's drove its sales up 8.4 percent, and Costco climbed 8 percent.

Haves and have nots

Discounters clobbered
ShopKo Stores -12.8%
Wal-Mart Stores 0.1
Target 1.3
Luxury Thrives
Neiman Marcus 14.2
Saks Fifth Ave. 7.1
Nordstrom 6.9
Warehouses Soar
BJ's 8.4
Costco 8.0
Sam's 4.9
Mid-Tier Mixed
Kohl's 8.0
Penney 3.6
Federated 2.8
May 1.5
Dillard's -6.0


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