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Middle market up, Wal-Mart off, in June comps

New York -- With consumers sucker-punched by the double whammy of rising gas prices and higher credit-card bills as interest rates climb higher, America's big retailers took it on the chin during June, with same-store sales softening, especially for those, like Wal-Mart, that cater to the needs of low-income consumers.

Underlining the magnitude of the June weakness, the Johnson Redbook Index said same-store sales for the 70 major retailers it tracks rose a lackluster 2.8% during June, far beneath the 4.7% gain recorded in May and the hefty 6.7% increase rung up in April.

Even the big warehouse clubs fell short during the month. Costco comps were up by 6.0%, but that was shy of the 10.0% gain recorded last June. And Costco same-store sales in U.S. doors rose a disappointing 4.0%. At Sam's, same-store sales were up 1.3%, far from the 3.8% of a year ago. And BJ's was off by 0.1%, compared with a 4.3% increase a year ago.

While its same-store sales didn't actually decline, perhaps the month's biggest loser was still Wal-Mart, where sales limped ahead just 1.1% in its core U.S. stores, only a fraction of the 4.9% gain recorded a year ago.

Flying past its larger rival, Target posted a 5.2% increase, almost five times the size of the increase at Wal-Mart.

Easily the month's biggest winner was Kohl's, with comps shooting up by 7.1%, still gaining traction as it reconfigures its operations after stalling out in 2004. But even that couldn't compare with last June's 14.4% gain.

Among the other winners was Bon-Ton, pushing same-store sales up by 6.6% as it assembles a department store fiefdom through a string of buyouts. Rebounding strongly after earlier weakness, fashion and crafts retailer Hancock Fabrics drove comps up 6.2%, while rival Jo-Ann continued to languish with a 10.4% slide, weakening substantially from last year's dip of 0.2%.

Department-store business was mixed, with JCPenney up 4.3%, Federated up 1.7%, Gottschalks flat at 0.3% and Dillard's off by 1.0%. A substantially smaller Saks department-store group was up by 4.7% following the sale of some units to Bon-Ton.

To view a listing of June same-store sales for key retailers, click here.


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