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Easter a Boon for Some Retailers' April Sales

The shift of Easter from March last year into April this year was a boon to some retailers and no help to others in April.

Aside from Walmart, most retailers that mentioned home in their April reports included the department, or segments of it, among their underperformers.

The Johnson Redbook Same-Store Sales Index was up 0.5% following a 2.2% drop in March and a 0.2% drop in February. Among retailers in the Index — which includes apparel chains — 47% posted positive comps and 53% posted negative comps.

But trends were encouraging enough that TJX, Ross Stores, and Kohl's raised their earnings estimates for the quarter.

TJX's sales climbed just 1% — in part, a factor of currency exchanges — but that was enough to beat plan. Comps rose 3% as traffic climbed significantly at most its nameplates. MarMaxx's comps climbed 4%, well above plan, with home fashions comps up 1%, said Sherry Lang, svp, investor and public relations.

Comps were up 1% at Home Goods and 11% at A.J. Wright, both significantly beating expectations. In Canada, comps at Winners/Home Sense fell 4% vs. a 10% gain last year.

Land said TJX continues to plan home fashions inventories down "dramatically" in favor of higher-turn apparel buys. But despite its cautious in near-term outlook, TJX raised first-quarter earnings per share outlook to 47 cents to 49 cents.

Ross Stores saw both sales and comps jump 6% in April, with the former hitting $534 million. The company raised first quarter earnings outlook to 71 cents to 72 cents per share, from 68 cents to 70 cents.

"As we ended the month, average in-store inventories were down about 13% while consolidated inventories were down about 12% from the prior year," said svp/cfo John Call.

At Kohl's, April sales fell 2.3% to $1.2 billion, with comps dropping off 6.2%.

But with inventory management initiatives helping to fatten gross margin, Kohl's raised its first-quarter earnings outlook to 43 cent to 44 cents per share from 27 cents to 34 cents per share.

Duckwall-Alco stood out as the top comp gainer on HTT's Chain Sales Index for the month, with same-store sales up 6.1% and total sales up 10.6% to $35.9 million.

"All strategic elements of our turnaround program, which began last fall, are meeting or exceeding expectations," said Larry Zigerelli, president and ceo. "First quarter fiscal 2010 same-store sales continued to grow."

Freds also turned in one of the better performances in April, with comps up 5.0% despite a 1.0% decline in sales. Excluding the closing of 74 underperforming stores and 23 underperforming pharmacies last year, total sales from ongoing stores up were 4%, the company said.

At Walmart U.S., comp store traffic increased for the seventh consecutive month and was higher in April than in any of the previous six periods. Here, home was one of the top categories, along with grocery, health and wellness, hardlines and entertainment.

April Sales for Key Retailers
Five weeks ended May 2a (dollar amounts in millions)

2009 SALES 2008 SALES TOTAL %CHG. SAME-STORE %CHG.
a. BJ's — The impact of gasoline sales was a 10.4% decline in the month and a 9.0% decline in the 13-week period.
b. Freds — Excluding the 74 stores and 23 pharmacies closed last year, sales rose 4% during the month and 4% during the 13-week period.
c. TJX — Total sales for both periods were adversely impacted by currency exchange rates, the company reported.
d. Wal-Mart — International results were impacted by currency exchange rates. On a constant currency basis, international sales rose 13.0% during the month. The impact of lower fuel prices in the 2009 period was a 1.0% decline in comp sales for the month and a 0.8% decline in the 13-week period.
NA — Not available
BJ's Wholesale Club(a) 719 743 (3.2) (4.9)%
Bon-Ton Stores 199 209 (4.7) (5.1)
Costco 5,180 5,440 (6.0) (8.0)
Dillards 429 477 (10.9) (10.0)
Duckwall-Alco 36 33 10.6 6.1
Freds(b) 136 136 (1.0) 5.0
JCPenney 1,266 1,333 (5.0) (6.6)
Kohl's 1,199 1,227 (2.3) (6.2)
Macy's Inc. 1,692 1,868 (9.4) (9.1)
Ross Stores 534 480 6.0 6.0
Stein Mart 100 117 -14.6 -12.3
Target 4,446 4,253 4.5 0.3
TJX(c ) 1,430 1,410 1.0 3.0
Wal-Mart Inc.(d) 96,077 95,264 0.9 2.9
Wal-Mart U.S. 63,147 59,659 5.8 3.6
Sam's Clubs 11,316 11,272 0.4 (0.5)
International 21,614 24,333 (11.2) NA
13 WEEKS
2009 SALES 2008 SALES TOTAL %CHG. SAME-STORE %CHG.
BJ's Wholesale Club (a) $2,259 2,253 0.3% (1.5)%
Bon-Ton Stores 645 700 (8.0) (8.6)
Costco 44,660 46,880 (3.0) 4.0
Dillards 1,417 1,680 (16) (13)
Duckwall-Alco 114 103 11.0 6.2
Freds (b) 558 464 (1.0) 2.8
JCPenney 3,884 4,187 (5.9) (7.5
Kohl's 3,638 3,624 0.4 (4.2
Macy's Inc. 5,200 5,747 (9.5) (9.0
Ross Stores 1,692 1,556 9.0 3.0
Stein Mart 320 352 (9.2) (8.0
Target 14,361 14,302 0.4 (3.7
TJX (c ) 4,350 4,310 1.0 2.0
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. d 96,077 95,2640.9 2.9
Wal-Mart stores 63,147 59,659 5.8 3.6
Sam's Clubs 11,316 11,272 0.4 (0.5)
International 21,614 24,333 (11.2) NA


Winners and Losers
Same-Store Sales % Change

WINNERS
Duckwall-ALCO 6.1%
Ross Stores 6.0
Freds 5.0
Wal-Mart 4.0
LOSERS
Stein Mart -12.3%
Dillard's -10.0
Macy's Inc -9.1
Costco -8.0
JCPenney -6.6
Kohls -6.2


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