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Warehouse clubs beat off-pricers in otherwise lackluster May comps

New York - Stealing the limelight from the off-price chains in May were Costco Wholesale Corp. and BJ's Wholesale Club, which together took the top honors with high single-digit comps and low double-digit strides in sales for the four-week period.


Still, Pleasanton, Calif.-based Ross Stores and Framingham, Mass.-based TJX Companies, both of which have enjoyed strong sales and comp results for the past several months, didn't trail in May. They took the next top spots on this list. Ross Stores posted a 5.0% comp gain and saw its sales increase by 9.0%; TJX Cos. had a 4.0% comp increase and enjoyed an 8.0% gain in sales in May.


At Issaquah, Wash,-based Costco, domestics, home furnishings and housewares were among the strongest categories within soft lines, which saw comps increase in the mid-teen range, the company said.
Housewares were also included in Natick, Mass.-based BJ's long list of departments with the strongest sales in May. The regional club also attributed its growth in the month to several other factors, including a 4% increase in traffic and a 6% increase in food item sales.


Home and dresses, with same-store sales up in the mid-teen percentage range, were Ross Stores "strongest merchandise categories, while Florida and the Southeast were the best-performing regions," noted Michael Balmuth, vice chairman and ceo.


Home fashions at TJX Ços.' core nameplates in its U.S. division - Marmaxx and Home Goods - persisted as highlights in comp results. Sherry Lang, vp of investor and public relations, said while comps at Marmaxx in May increased only 3% "over a strong 6% increase last year," the home fashions segment of that business grew by 11%. Similarly, Home Goods' comps increased also by "a very strong 11% versus a challenging 6% increase last year," she said. "Clearly, we are pleased to see Home Goods' strong momentum continue as its eclectic mix of merchandise resonates with consumers."


Kohl's Corp., based in Menomonee Falls, Wis., tied with Fred's Inc. for fourth place among the best comp performances in May with 3.5% increases. Home did not get kudos for its performance at either chain.
E-commerce, however, was a bright spot for Kohl's, where the business segment "again increased more than 50% for the month," said Kevin Mansell, chairman, president and ceo.


At Cincinnati-based Macy's, too, online sales were noteworthy. Internet sales at macys.com and bloomingdales.com combined were up 23.2% in May and 31.2% year to date. Online sales are included in the same-store sales calculation for Macy's, the company added.


"Our same-store sales in May would have been up by approximately 5% were it not for the later Memorial Day, which shifted the Sunday and Monday of the holiday weekend by one week into the June reporting period this year from the May reporting period last year," said Terry Lundgren, chairman, president and ceo. "Customers are responding to the spring fashions at Macy's and Bloomingdale's, as well as to the tailored assortments that continue to evolve from My Macy's localization."


Minneapolis-based Target Corp. posted the most modest comp gains - 1.3%. By merchandise category, its home comps were down slightly, led by a low single-digit increase in decorative home offset by a soft comps in housewares.


"May comparable-store sales were somewhat below our expectation," said Gregg Steinhafel, chairman, president and ceo. "Our recent experience reinforces our belief that we will continue to experience volatility in the pace of economic recovery."

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