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Fred’s monthly sales rise; moves ahead with 2011 operating plan

BY Michael Johnsen

MEMPHIS — Fred’s on Thursday reported a 3% increase in sales for the five weeks ended April 2, reaching $188.8 million.

Comparable-store sales for the month rose 0.7%, versus an increase of 3.6% in the same period last year.

"Our March plan incorporated the expected impact of the calendar shift of the Easter holiday moving from March last year to April this year, along with the continuing branded-to-generic script shift occurring in pharmacy sales,” stated Bruce Efird, Fred’s CEO. “Overall, sales were on plan for the month, with the weeks preceding the Easter shift experiencing strong sales and customer traffic results. Moving into April, our programs are in place, positioning us to capitalize on the later holiday."

During March, Fred’s opened two pharmacy express locations and closed seven underperforming stores as part of its 2011 operating plan. As previously announced, the company expects to open 20 to 25 stores and 10 to 15 pharmacies during 2011, and anticipates closing a total of approximately 10 stores and five pharmacies.

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Costco sees sales gain in March

BY Allison Cerra

ISSAQUAH, Wsh. — Costco experienced a 17% increase in its monthly sales ended April 3, totaling nearly $7.2 billion.

Costco was positively impacted by the calendar shift; the company’s five-week period for March included 35 days this year, compared with 34 days last year. The wholesale retailer noted the comparable-store sales saw an 11% boost. Excluding such effects as inflation in gasoline prices and strengthening foreign currencies, which had a positive impact on comparable sales, Costco said comps would have increased 7%.

Costco noted that its five-week period included sales from the company’s Mexico joint venture. The company began consolidating its Mexico operations on a prospective basis beginning with its 2011 fiscal year. Excluding sales from its Mexico joint venture, Costco’s net sales increase would have been 14%.

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Target’s March sales drop

BY Allison Cerra

MINNEAPOLIS — Target’s March sales dropped 4.5% to $5.95 billion, compared with the year-ago period.

The retailer also disclosed that comparable-store sales for the five weeks dropped 5.5%, which was in line with expectations, as they reflected the later timing of the Easter holiday, according to the company’s chairman, president and CEO, Gregg Steinhafel.

"Our stores are well-prepared for the upcoming Easter season, and we continue to expect a mid-teens increase in Target’s April comparable-store sales," Steinhafel noted.

Looking ahead, Target continues to expect its first quarter 2011 U.S. retail segment EBITDA margin rate will range from 9.7% to 10%.

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