Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said September sales at stores open at least a year were tracking near the high end of its 3-percent to 5-percent growth target, though about 100 stores were closed at some point last week by Hurricane Isabel.
Rival Target Corp., reporting on a recorded call after the market closed, said its same-store sales were "essentially" in line with its expectations for the week ended Sept. 20 and the month so far. Target said its sales were bolstered by stationery, holiday goods, and children's apparel.
Target has projected same-store sales growth for September of between 5 percent and 6 percent at its key namesake discount locations. The company as a whole, including its weaker performing Mervyn's and Marshall Field's department stores, is expected to come in 1.5-percent below Target stores.
Wal-Mart, the world's largest company when measured by sales, has more than 2,900 discount stores and more than 500 Sam's Club warehouse stores. Wal-Mart said it sent about 300 trailers to the hurricane area, selling or donating bottled water and other lower-margin supplies.
Sales have been strong in August and most of September, so any impact from the hurricane on the U.S. East Coast is not likely to affect Wal-Mart's earnings, said Joe Grabowski, retail analyst at Strong funds.
The latest recorded sales update included sales through Friday. The 5-week September sales period runs through Oct. 3.
Wal-Mart also said "the paycheck cycle was again pronounced," meaning sales increased as people received their mid-month paychecks. That can be a sign that household budgets remain tight in a sluggish U.S. economy. (Reuters)
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