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Comp Sales Edge Up in May

Same-store sales for America's big retailers staged something of a comeback in May following April's deep declines, the worst results in decades — but still came up short and soft, most notably at full-price department stores.

The Johnson Redbook Flash Report, which tracks the results of 55 major retailers, rose by 2.7%, rebounding from a slide of 1.7% the month before. But sales were still far beneath the impressive 6.2% increase recorded in March or the 3.9% gain in January.

Virtually all the good news in May came from retailers who make their main pitch to consumers hit hard by rising gas prices and lower home values — warehouse clubs, off-pricers and discounters. Climbing back into the top spot after stumbling the month before was Kohl's, where comps shot up by 10.5%, reversing an atypical 10.5% drop in April. Two warehouse operators, Costco and Sam's, gained 7.0% and 6.4% respectively.

Among the nation's big discounters, Target jumped back on track with a 5.8% increase, leaving a woebegone Wal-Mart in its dust. Same-store sales at the world's largest retailer edged up a mangy 0.3%, but even that was better than the retailer's drop of 4.6% the month before.

Notably weak were full-price department stores, with Bon-Ton hardest hit with a 5.3% decline, worsening form a 2.5% drop the month before. Macy's sales fell by 3.3%, illustrating the damage done by May department stores now that they're included in monthly results, along with Macy's and Bloomingdale's.

Surprisingly, even a perennial laggard like Dillard outperformed Macy's, slipping at a more modest pace of 2.0%

Sales of home goods were mixed. Kohl's and Ross Stores both reported strong home sales. Larry Montgomery, Kohl's chairman and ceo, said, "May results were driven by broad-based strength in all of our apparel businesses footwear and home." Michael Balmuth, Ross Stores ceo, commented, "Dresses and home continued to be the strongest merchandise categories."

But elsewhere home was a non-starter. With consumers buying just the necessities, Wal-Mart said it was stronger in grocery than general merchandise, while "apparel and home continue to be soft." Ditto JCPenney, which said department stores sales "were softest in fine jewelry, women's accessories, and home categories." That held true for Penney direct sales as well, where results "continue to be impacted by softness in higher ticket home categories and the spring/summer Big Book."

Similarly, Gottschalks reported, "We continued to experience weakness in textiles," even though sales of furniture and mattresses were strong.

Winners and Losers
Same-store sales % change

Winners
Kohl's 10.5%
Costco 7.0
Sam's Club 6.4
Target 5.8
TJX 5.0
BJ's 4.1
Dollar General 4.1
Losers
Bon-Ton -5.3
Gottschalks -3.8
Macy's -3.3
Dillard -2.0
JC Penney -2.0


MAY SALES FOR KEY RETAILERS
Four weeks ended June 2a(dollar amounts in millions)

2007 sales 2006 sales Total % chg. Same-store %chg.
a. Reporting periods vary from store to store.
b. Total sales include Carson's results, but same-store sales are for Bon-Ton alone.
c. For the 40 weeks year to date of Costco's fiscal year.
d. For the 40 weeks year to date of Family Dollar's fiscal year.
BJ's Wholesale Club $711.0 $657.4 8.2 4.1
The Bon-Ton Stores b $234.7 $232.3 1.0 (5.3)
Costco $5,140.0 $4,630.0 11.0 7.0
Dillard Dept. Stores $527.9 $533.5 (1.0) (2.0)
Dollar General $733.1 $691.8 6.0 4.1
Family Dollar $522.0 $492.9 5.9 2.5
Fred's $132.2 $127.5 3.7 0.2
Gottschalks $46.4 $48.9 (5.1) (3.8)
J.C. Penney $1,377.0 $1,383.0 (0.4) N.A
Dept. stores $1,191.0 $1,187.0 0.3 (2.0)
Catalog/e-commerce $186.0 $196.0 (5.1) N.A
Kohl's Corp. $1,191.9 $1,006.2 18.5 10.5
Macy's $1,976.0 $2,024.0 (2.3) (3.3)
Ross Stores $450.0 $412.0 9.2 1.0
Stein Mart $118.9 $119.6 (0.6) 2.5
Target Corp. $4,325.0 $3,929.0 10.1 5.8
TJX Cos. $1,400.0 $1,300.0 9.0 5.0
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. $28,258.0 $26,233.0 7.7 1.3
Wal-Mart Stores $18,073.0 $17,138.0 5.5 0.3
Sam's Club $3,546.0 $3,281.0 8.1 6.4
International $6,639.0 $5,814.0 14.2 N.A
17 WEEKS YEAR-TO-DATEa
BJ's Wholesale Club $2,722.2 $2,543.9 7.0 2.8
The Bon-Ton Stores b $927.3 $794.1 22.4 (3.7)
Costco c $47,960.0 $44,100.0 8.9 5.0
Dillard Dept. Stores $2,291.1 $2,371.3 (3.4) (4.0)
Dollar General $3,010.0 $2,840.0 5.8 2.8
Family Dollar d $5,202.4 $4,816.7 8.0 0.9
Fred's $574.5 $544.7 5.5 1.5
Gottschalks $188.2 $192.4 (2.2) (1.5)
JCPenney $5,727.0 $5,603.0 2.2 N.A
JCPenney stores $4,881.0 $4,722.0 3.4 1.2
Catalog/e-commerce $846.0 $881.0 (4.0) N.A
Kohl's Corp. $4,764.0 $4,202.5 13.4 5.5
Macy's $7,897.0 $7,954.0 (0.7) (0.5)
Ross Stores $1,860.0 $1,722.0 8.0 6.0
Stein Mart $495.0 $484.5 2.2 (1.0)
Target Corp. $17,948.0 $17,044.6 9.3 4.7
TJX Cos. $5,500.0 $5,200.0 7.0 3.0
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. $115,875.0 $107,309.0 8.0 0.8
Wal-Mart stores $74,632.0 $70,741.0 5.5 0.1
Sam's Clubs $14,133.0 $13,274.0 6.5 4.8
International $27,110.0 $23,294.0 16.4 N.A


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