October a Scary Month for Costco, Others

Costco Wholesale yesterday posted negative comparable-store sales for October — the first time the retailer has ever done so, according to some observers — as retailers overall had their worst single month in decades.

ISSAQUAH, Wash. — Costco Wholesale yesterday posted negative comparable-store sales for October — the first time the retailer has ever done so, according to some observers — as retailers overall had their worst single month in decades. Costco attributed the 1% decline in part to the stronger dollar, which drive international comps down 10%, and to lower prices for fuel at its own gas pumps. It noted that food sales remained strong in the month, however — up 12% — as sales of general merchandise slipped.

Rival BJ’s Wholesale, meanwhile, posted October comps of 10.2%. Wal-Mart topped analysts’ estimates for the month with a gain of 2.4%. The International Council of Shopping Centers tallied an overall October decline of 0.9% for retailers, however.

“The October retail environment was simply awful — with a high degree of uncertainty around the financial markets, consumers put off any discretionary spending resulting in exceedingly weak October sales results," said Michael P. Niemira, ICSC chief economist and director of research.

The group lowered its holiday forecast for retail growth of just 1% in November and December.

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