BJ's Wholesale Club December Sales Up; Food Sales Solid

NATICK, Mass. -- Due in major part to strongly performing food categories, BJ's Wholesale Club, Inc. Friday posted a December a sales increase of 6.2 percent, to $1.032 billion, from $971.8 million in the year-ago period.

Sales of food rose about 6 percent and general merchandise sales sent down 3 percent, BJ’s said.

Among the categories with the strongest sales increases over the previous December were candy, cheese, coffee, dairy, ice melt, juices, meat, paper products, pet foods, and produce. Categories with the largest sales decreases vs. last year included Christmas seasonal, cigarettes, electronics, furniture, jewelry, wine, music, prerecorded video, and toys.

Comparable-club sales grew 3.0 percent for the month, the chain said, including a contribution from sales of gas of 1.7 percent and a negative effect from the absence of pharmacy sales of 0.3 percent. Severe snowstorms in the Northeast during the period adversely affected comparable-club sales by about 1 percent.

For January 2008 retailer said it anticipates that merchandise comparable-club sales, excluding the impact of gas and pharmacy, will increase by 1 percent to 3 percent. BJ's reiterated its earnings guidance of 70 cents to 74 cents per diluted share for the fourth quarter of 2007. The chain will report full results for the fourth quarter in March.

Excluding gas sales, traffic went down 2 percent and the average transaction amount rose about 3 percent in December. The decline in traffic was primarily attributable to the impact of snowstorms in the Northeast during the third week of the month, partly offset by growth in traffic driven by the annual holiday trial membership program.

BJ's operates 177 clubs in 16 states.

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