Food Helps Lift BJ's March Sales

NATICK, Mass. -- Food sales continue to help boost the bottom line at BJ's Wholesale Club, Inc. here, which yesterday posted March 2006 sales increase of 7.3 percent to $712.7 million, from $664.2 million in March 2005. On a comparable-club basis, sales grew 3.1 percent, including a contribution from gas sales of about 0.9 percent.

Because of a calendar shift in the Easter holiday, March 2006 had one more day of sales compared with 2005, when all BJ's clubs were closed on Sunday, March 27. This calendar shift pushed sales up by about 1 percent to 1.5 percent, according to the company.

Comparable-club sales were strongest in the fifth week of March, because of that extra sales day, and were weakest in the fourth week, in common with last year's pre-Easter sales, BJ's said. Comparable-club sales were up in all major regions, the company added, with the biggest growth seen in the Mid-Atlantic and in Metro New York markets.

Excluding gas sales, the average transaction amount for March went up about 4 percent and traffic declined about 1 percent.

Comparable-club sales of food rose about 3 percent, and those of general merchandise sales increased about 1 percent, noted BJ's. Among the categories showing strong-comparable club sales increases over last year were fresh produce, household chemicals, juices, lawn and garden, paper products, residential furniture, sporting goods, storage, summer seasonal, televisions, and water. Categories that performed less well than they did last year included apparel, candy, DVDs, jewelry, and video games.

In other BJ's news, the company said this week that its board of directors has authorized the repurchase of up to an additional $100 million of BJ's common stock. Including this latest authorization, a total of about $165 million is available for share repurchase.

Stock repurchases may be made occasionally, at BJ's management's discretion, either in the open market (including through Rule 10b5-1 plans) or in privately negotiated deals. In 2005 the retailer bought about 2.5 million shares at an average cost of $28.88 per share, or about $73 million. BJ's had about 67.5 million shares outstanding as of March 24.

BJ's currently operates 164 BJ's Wholesale Clubs and two ProFoods Restaurant Supply Clubs.
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