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BJ’s Wholesale placed on sales block

BY Michael Johnsen

WESTBOROUGH, Mass. — After months of speculation, BJ’s Wholesale Club early Thursday morning confirmed the company has decided to explore and evaluate strategic alternatives. Coupled with that announcement was a positive sales story for the year.

BJ’s stock was up by more than $5 to $48.66 in early morning trading on Thursday. Over the last year, the company’s shares have risen about 30%, fueled in part by takeover speculation. Rumors that BJ’s may be a takeover target have circulated since the summer, when Leonard Green & Partners bought a 9.5% stake.

An independent committee of BJ’s has engaged Morgan Stanley as its financial adviser to assist in this process.

BJ’s also reported positive January sales results despite the number of cold-weather storms that recently have swept the country. Sales were up 6.5% to $779.8 million. Comparable sales also were up 2.7%, including a contribution from sales of gasoline of 2.4%.

Excluding the impact of gasoline, merchandise comparable-club sales increased by approximately 0.3%. Severe snowstorms affecting the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions had a negative impact on merchandise comparable-club sales of approximately 2.5%, the club retailer estimated.

Total sales for the wholesaler were up 8.3% to $10.6 billion for the year ended Jan. 29, with comparable sales up by 4.4%, including a contribution from sales of gasoline of 2%. Excluding gasoline, merchandise comparable-club sales increased 2.4%. BJ’s operates 189 warehouse clubs in 15 states.

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Hallmark brings voices to storybooks

BY Allison Cerra

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Hallmark is expanding its Recordable Storybook collection by adding two classic titles to the line.

Readers now can add their own voices to "Goodnight Moon" and "Curious You on Your Way," which join the roster of such other classic stories as "Guess How Much I Love You," "Counting Kisses" and "On the Night You Were Born."

Hallmark Recordable Storybooks feature voice-capture technology so that when a page is turned, the book automatically plays the text on that page in the reader’s voice, allowing people to "read" to a child or other loved one. The line debuted in late 2009 with "The Night Before Christmas."

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Walgreens brings in new year with larger marketbasket

BY Michael Johnsen

DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreens on Thursday posted January sales of $5.9 billion, representing an increase of 11.3% from last year. Early morning trading of Walgreens stock was up 51 cents to $42.48.

Only 2.8 percentage points of that increase can be attributed to the acquisition of Duane Reade, the Deerfield, Ill.-based retailer stated. Total front-end sales increased 11.5% in January, and pharmacy sales increased 10.8%, accounting for 66.1% of total sales for the month.

Sales in comparable stores were up 6.1%, with the effect of calendar day shifts positively impacting total comparable sales by 0.7 percentage points. Comparable-store front-end sales increased 4.5%, and customer traffic in comparable stores increased 2.4%, while basket size increased 2.1%. Same-store pharmacy sales were up 6.9%, negatively impacted by 2.9 percentage points due to generic drug introductions in the last 12 months.

Prescriptions filled at comparable stores increased 6.3% in January, negatively impacted by 1.3 percentage points due to fewer flu shots. Flu shots administered season-to-date at pharmacies and clinics totaled more than 6.3 million.

Duane Reade stores were not included in any comparable-store results.

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