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November chain store sales up 3.5 percent

BY HBSDEALER Staff

U.S. chain store sales increased 3.5 percent on a year-over-year basis, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC). The gain was the strongest since March, when sales grew 5.9 percent.

However, the ICSC attributed 0.75 percent to 1 percent of the November gain to a calendar mismatch that yielded an extra week of sales this year.

Of retailers that report monthly sales:

• Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart reported comparable-store sales for all its stores — including international locations — rose 1.4 percent, including a 4.8 percent gain at the company’s Sam’s Club stores. Net sales rose 8.4 percent to $31.7 billion from $29.27 billion in the same period last year.

• Comparable-store sales at Minneapolis-based Target rose 1.1 percent, while overall sales rose 16.7 percent to $5.97 billion from $5.12 billion in September 2006.

• Issaquah, Wash.-based Costco saw comparable-store sales rise a hearty 9 percent, while overall sales rose 13 percent to $5.72 billion from $5.04 billion last year.

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BlueLinx announces consolidation

BY HBSDEALER Staff

BlueLinx Holdings, a nationwide distributor of building materials, has announced plans to eliminate underperforming skus from its assortment as part of a cost-cutting effort. The company plans to “aggressively sell through its inventory in these skus” commencing in the fourth quarter, according to a prepared statement.

No details were given on which skus have been targeted, or how many are involved.

BlueLinx will also consolidate its Atlanta headquarters and sales center into one building, thereby saving a projected $1 million to $1.5 million in operating expenses in 2008. Both buildings are leased facilities, and declines in headcount have produced excess capacity.

According to the statement, both moves were prompted by the “prolonged downturn in the housing market.”

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Toro sees big rise in fourth-quarter earnings

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Outdoor equipment-maker Toro reported fourth-quarter net earnings of $6.5 million, up 44.5 percent from 4.5 million in the same period last year.

The company reported net sales of $332.5 million, a 0.9 percent increase from sales of $329.5 million last year.

For the full year, earnings were $142.4 million, up 10.3 percent from 2006 earnings of $129.1 million. Net sales for the fiscal year were $1.87 billion, up 2.2 percent from last year’s sales of $1.83 billion.

“In challenging market conditions, our performance in fiscal 2007 highlights the strength and resiliency of our company,” said Michael Hoffman, chairman and CEO. “We believe these results indicate that Toro has outperformed in a soft market.”

The company attributed growth in its international professional segment sales, which helped offset softness in the residential segment in the United States. International net sales increased 9.6 percent over 2006.

Toro is a worldwide manufacturer of outdoor maintenance and beautification products for home, recreation and commercial landscapes.

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