Wal-Mart Backs Sales View Despite War

Bentonville, Ark. -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. on Monday said it still expects to meet its forecast for March sales at stores open at least a year, despite the "CNN effect" last week, when shoppers were glued to their televisions to watch coverage of the war with Iraq.

Wal-Mart said sales were boosted by shoppers buying items like bottled water, canned meats, cereal bars, plastic sheeting, duct tape and flags to stock up for emergency situations.

In a recorded call, Wal-Mart said it still expects March same-store sales -- a closely watched gauge of retail performance -- to rise in the low single digits on a percentage basis. It also affirmed its view that same-store sales would increase in the high single digits in April.

"We did experience a 'CNN effect' late in the week, but the impact was minimal," the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company said regarding the week ended March 21.

By contrast, Federated Department Stores Inc., the parent of Macy's and Bloomingdales, said same-store sales fell below its March expectations for a drop of 3 percent to 4 percent since the start of the war on Thursday.
Federated said, however, the decline was not as steep as it could have been, adding it was "hard to predict the impact of the war on the month as a whole or on future months."

Wal-Mart, which reports March same-store sales results on April 10, said its strongest sellers for the week included pet supplies, automotive products, paint and accessories, intimate apparel, lawn and garden products and food.
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