Sector Snap: Warehouse clubs buck trend

AP News
Posted: Dec 03, 2009 12:14 PM

While many of the nation's retailers posted a drop in sales for November, wholesale clubs bucked the trend _ showing monthly sales gains as shoppers continued to come to their clubs for deals on everyday items.

Costco Wholesale Corp. posted a sales gain of 6 percent, though smaller than the 8.1 percent gain that analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected. However, half of that increase resulted from currency shifts and higher gas prices.

BJ's Wholesale Club Inc. said its sales rose 1 percent for the month, but the result missed analyst expectations of 4.7 percent.

Executives at the wholesaler, based in Natick, Mass., said sales of food rose 2 percent during the month, as shoppers picked up more fresh baked goods, breakfast foods, frozen food and juices. Sales of other general merchandise fell 1 percent.

The figures are based on sales at stores open at least a year and are considered a key indicator of a retailers' health because they exclude the effects of store expansions or closings.

The nation's retailers, particularly clothing merchants, suffered this month as shoppers kept spending tight in the early holiday season. Wholesale clubs have the distinct advantage of also selling food and other everyday items that consumers continue to buy.

But the results fell short of Wall Street expectations, and investors sent shares of both of the warehouse club operators down in trading Thursday.

Shares of Costco fell $1.80, or nearly 3 percent, to $59.07 by midday trading. And shares of BJ's fell 74 cents, more than 2 percent, to $33.57.