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War, weather combine to slow sales in March

With the war in Iraq and the weather dominating the headlines last month, people opted to stay at home out of the cold and watch the news instead of heading to the shopping centers.

Retailers also had to face the continuing economic doldrums, and the shift of the Easter holiday into April this year. The Redbook Retail Sales Average climbed 0.8 percent for the month.

Even mighty Wal-Mart only saw a 0.3 percent increase, and the Wal-Mart division a 0.7 increase. Sam's Club easily bested both of them — and the majority of the other retailers — with a 2.6 increase.

Costco led the pack in comp-store increases with 8.0 percent, and had a total sales increase of 12.1 percent. Domestics was one of the strengths in its softlines category, though overall sales were flat for the category.

Department stores were hard hit, and Stein Mart, Dillard's and May Co. headed the group with double-digit comp store losses.

Federated saw its same-store sales drop by 6.5 percent, and total sales by 5.8 percent. Terry Lundgren president and ceo, said the results reflected the war in Iraq and the unseasonably cool spring weather in much of the country. However, he added that the company expects to achieve its first quarter earnings guidance of $0.14 $0.19 cents a share despite April sales that are also expected to be lower than anticipated.

Sears, which saw its comps slip 3.1 percent, nevertheless performed better than expected because of its home improvement business, said Alan Lacy, chairman and ceo. However, the home fashions and decor business was down in the high teens, the company said. The Great Indoors was also down, in the mid-teens.

Target Corp. didn't achieve plan for March, with negative same-store comps for all divisions: Target Corp., down 2.3 percent; Target division, down 1.3 percent; Marshall Field's, down 6.1 percent; and Mervyn's, down 8.0 percent.

"In light of our actual sales performance in February and March, and our outlook for April, we are unlikely to fully achieve our profit plan in the first quarter," said Bob Ulrich, chairman and ceo.

The divisions at the TJX Cos. all faced very strong comps from the previous year, the company said. The MarMaxx group, including T.J. Maxx and Marshall's, had a -5.0 percent comp, and both the apparel and home fashions divisions performed close to the chain average. HomeGoods saw a -1.0 percent drop in comps, while Winners and HomeSense in Canada saw a gain of 1.0 percent. T.K Maxx fell by -4.0 percent, and A.J. Wright rose 4.0 percent.

However, Edmond English, president and ceo, stated, "We have been taking advantage of the abundance of great buys available to us in the marketplace, which positions us extremely well for the upcoming Easter selling season."

Non-apparel businesses at Ross Stores continues to post solid gains, the company said, and the home businesses generated comp-store increased in the mid single digits on top of double-digit growth in the prior year.

"We remain cautiously optimistic that our business trends will improve as weather normalizes and the geo-political situation stabilizes," said Michael Balmuth, vice chairman and ceo.

Though same-store sales fell 2.9 percent, Elder-Beerman saw domestics as one of its better merchandise performers for the month.

Dillard's, with its total sales decrease of 13.0 percent and comp-store sales decrease of 12.0 percent, said that its home category was slightly above company average.

TOP 3
Company % chg.
Costco 8.0
Hancock Fabrics 5.3
Dollar General 4.2
BOTTOM 3
Company % chg.
Stein Mart -12.9
Dillards -12.0
May Co. -11.4


March sales for major retailers (period ending 4/5/03)a
sales in $millions

Company 2003 sales 2002 sales Total % change Same-store % change
a: Reporting periods vary from store to store.
b: For the period ending April 6.
c: For the period ending April 4.
d: Will not report numbers until emerges from Chapter 11
Costco b $3,880.0 $3,460.0 12.1 8.0
Dillard Dept. Stores 667.2 763.4 (12.6) (12.0
Dollar General c 602.5 533.7 12.9 4.2
Elder-Beerman 50.8 52.9 (4.0) (2.9)
Family Dollar 446.7 390.6 14.4 3.5
Federated 1,233.0 1,309.0 (5.8) (6.5)
Gottschalks 54.3 59.2 (8.3) (6.4)
Hancock Fabrics b 42.2 40.5 4.2 5.3
JCPenney 2,843.0 2,967.0 (4.2) NA
Dept. stores 1,171.0 1,254.0 (6.6) (5.5)
Catalog/e-commerce 238.0 274.0 (13.1) NA
Jo-Ann Stores 147.2 145.5 1.2 3.1
Kmart d NA NA NA NA
Kohl's Corp. 913.5 750.6 21.7 0.4
May Dept. Stores 1,059.2 1,175.9 (9.9) (11.4
Pier 1 Imports 150.1 145.5 3.2 (5.8)
Ross Stores 347.0 329.0 5.5 (5.0)
Saks Inc. 522.4 542.3 (3.7) (3.8)
Dept. stores 312.1 311.1 0.3 (0.2)
Sears U.S. sales 2,399.9 2,455.7 (2.3) (3.1)
ShopKo 268.1 293.2 (8.6) (8.4)
ShopKo stores 202.6 NA (10.1) (10.1)
Pamida 65.5 NA (3.4) (2.7)
Stein Mart 131.1 146.6 (10.6) (12.9)
Target Corp. 3,889.0 3,717.0 4.6 (2.3
Target 3,316.0 NA 6.1 (1.3)
Mervyn's 298.0 NA (7.6) (8.0)
Marshall Field's 225.0 NA (6.5) (6.1)
TJX Cos. 1,109.0 1,059.0 4.7 (2.0)
Value City 237.7 237.0 0.3 (4.4)
Value City Dept. stores 137.8 149.6 (7.9) (7.4)
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. c 23,175.0 21,489.0 7.8 0.7
Wal-Mart stores 14,951.0 13,947.0 7.2 0.3
Sam's Club 3,098.0 2,879.0 7.6 2.6
9 weeks to date
Costco b NA NA NA NA
Dillard Dept. Stores $1,277.4 $1,362.5 (6.2) (6.0
Dollar General c 1,078.8 962.1 12.1 3.4
Elder-Beerman 86.8 95.0 (8.6) (8.1)
Family Dollar NA NA NA NA
Federated 2,216.0 2,357.0 (6.0) (6.7)
Gottschalks 97.6 104.0 (6.2) (4.4)
Hancock Fabrics b 77.2 74.0 4.3 5.2
JCPenney 5,108.0 5,264.0 (3.0) NA
JCPenney stores 2,077.0 2,194.0 (5.3) (4.0)
Catalog/e-commerce 412.0 471.0 (12.5) NA
Jo-Ann Stores 255.6 255.2 0.2 2.2
Kmart b NA NA NA NA
Kohl's Corp. 1,399.7 1,191.6 17.5 (1.5)
May Dept. Stores 1,905.2 2,090.2 (8.9) (10.3)
Pier 1 Imports NA NA NA NA
Ross Stores 591.0 556.0 6.3 (4.0)
Saks Inc. 889.5 923.6 (3.7) (3.9
Dept. stores 538.7 533.9 0.9 0.4
Sears U.S. sales 4,149.8 4,356.1 (4.7) (5.9)
ShopKo 483.7 NA (5.5) (5.3)
ShopKo stores 366.1 NA (6.3) (6.3)
Pamida 117.6 NA (3.0) (2.3)
Stein Mart 222.1 NA (9.0) (11.7)
Target Corp. 6,815.0 NA 5.4 (1.9)
Target 5,825.0 NA 7.3 (1.0)
Mervyn's 517.0 NA (8.3) (8.5)
Marshall Field's 394.0 NA (4.6) (4.3)
TJX Cos. 1,885.0 1,811.0 4.1 (3.0)
Value City 382.7 393.2 (2.7) (7.5)
Value City Dept. stores 226.5 250.0 (9.4) (8.9)
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. c 41,971.0 38,696.0 8.5 1.5
Wal-Mart stores 27,123.0 25,053.0 8.3 1.3
Sam's Clubs 5,523.0 5,123.0 7.8 2.5


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