Wal-Mart Posts Sales Increase in September, Raises Quarterly Earnings Guidance

BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- Grocery and pharmacy drove Wal-Mart's comparable store sales gains once again in September, as the company reported yesterday a 1.4 percent jump in comps. Meanwhile, the Dow and S&P 500 hit record highs after Wal-Mart increased its profit outlook.

Wal-Mart also said yesterday it's marking the anniversary of its $4 generic prescription program with a national expansion of additional medications available for treating more conditions.

Net sales at the Wal-Mart Stores division for the five-week period ending Oct. 5 were $21.45 billion, a 6.4 percent increase from the same period last year. Sales at Sam's Club jumped 6.8 percent to $4.07 billion.

Comparable store sales at Wal-Mart stores, excluding fuel, increased 0.8 percent, while comps at Sam's Club, excluding fuel, were up 4.4 percent.

Sam's Club sales were driven by increases in average ticket for both business and Advantage members, with small business member sales growth continuing to lead, the company said. Sales strengths for the month included fresh food, grocery, electronics, and video games. As October progresses, the clubs are transitioning into holiday entertaining in food and general merchandise.

Comparable store sales of Wal-Mart's U.S. operations for the October four-week reporting period are expected to be between flat and 2 percent, said Tom Schoewe, e.v.p. and c.f.o., in a statement.

"We estimate that earnings per share from continuing operations for the third quarter of fiscal year 2008 will change from within our previously stated guidance of $0.62 to $0.65 to a range of $0.66 to $0.69," he said. "For the first two months of the quarter, we have seen improvement in initial margin and expense leverage at the Wal-Mart Stores division, which is driving this change."
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