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Sears' August Sales Ahead of Expectations
Aug 27, 2003
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Sears, Roebuck and Co., the largest U.S. department store chain, said August sales at stores open at least a year were tracking ahead of expectations.

Sears said same-store sales for the 4 weeks ended Aug. 30, were helped by strength in the home appliance category.

A Sears spokesman could not comment on how well other categories were doing, but said that home appliances -- which account for 60 percent of its sales -- had been tracking so far above normal the company wanted to inform investors.

Earlier this month, Sears forecast that its August same-store sales would be flat with a year ago, when they fell 11.1 percent. The retailer has reported 23 straight months of negative same store sales.

The news from Sears comes on the heels of continued strength in the U.S. housing market. Existing home sales jumped in July, showing that the housing market -- and the market for big ticket items like refrigerators and washing machines -- continues to grow.

U.S. durable goods orders rose 1.0 percent in July and the Conference board said its consumer confidence index rose in August.

In May, the company said it would be making changes in its home appliance business, including more competitive pricing, expanded selection, and a comprehensive price-match policy.

Sears started to see results from its home appliance overhaul in July, spokesman Edgar McDougal said. He said the increased sales were the consumer's reaction to "a more attractive home appliance offering at Sears.

"I don't think their appliance business was ever broken, but the competition was just getting so good," said Joe Grabowski, an analyst with Strong Capital Management.

Sears had been under pressure to improve its appliance business, as big-box chains like Home Depot and Lowe's Cos Inc. expanded aggressively and lured Sears customers away by having more items in stock and with promotions like free shipping and zero-percent financing.

August same-store sales, which most major chain stores will report on Sept. 4, are expected to be better for other retailers as well.

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