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Home Missing as Wal-Mart Gains

While Wal-Mart is happy with its recent results in most merchandising categories, the home department stands alone in trailing the performance of the big retailer's "leading competitor," Target.

"In relative terms, you will see we are outperforming in five of our six businesses; we are outperforming the market," said Eduardo Castro-Wright, president and ceo, Wal-Mart U.S., speaking at last week's Lehman Brothers 11th Annual Retail and Restaurant Conference. He lined up major merchandise segments vs. an unidentified competing retailer, comparing comp store measures for each.

The most recent full fiscal quarter results showed Wal-Mart comps up 1.5% overall, to the competitor's 0.2% gain.

In the Wal-Mart home merchandise segment, however, comps fell 5.6% in the quarter, while the leading competitor saw comps drop just 0.4%.

And while his presentation called out better merchandising success stories in numerous product categories — even furniture was cited as a one of the "growth categories" — soft home was conspicuous by its absence.

"We are very well-positioned" to take advantage of the current economic climate, and also to benefit when the upturn eventually comes, Castro-Wright noted — pointing to especially strong comp traffic gains in its "affluent-traited stores" — even though efforts chainwide to trade up in the home department have made lackluster progress.

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