BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Discount retailers last week said they received a boost from consumers spending their economic stimulus checks, as the segment continued to show sharp sales gains in the weak economy.
Wal-Mart Stores here, for example, beat analysts' expectations for June sales by posting a 5.8% gain in U.S. comparable-store sales, excluding fuel, for the five-week span ending July 4. The results included a 6.1% gain at Wal-Mart stores and a 4.6% gain at Sam's Club.
“The economic stimulus checks were a positive factor in Wal-Mart U.S.'s higher traffic,” the company said in a recorded call, noting that strong sales gains in “grocery and some home categories suggest that customers continue to eat, entertain and even vacation at home more often.”
The company raised its profit guidance for the second fiscal quarter based on the strong sales, to a range of 82 cents to 84 cents per share, up from the previous guidance of 78 cents to 81 cents.
The company also said that since the last of the economic stimulus checks were mailed out last week, it would be “difficult to forecast the benefit of the economic stimulus through the remainder of the year.”
Matthew, N.C.-based Family Dollar Stores, which operates 6,562 discount stores in 44 states, also cited benefits from the economic stimulus checks in reporting comparable-stores sales gains of 8% for the five-week span that ended July 5.
Perhaps the biggest surprise came from Natick, Mass.-based BJ's Wholesale Club, which posted comparable-store sales gains of 8.3%, excluding gas, which added another 8.2%. Analysts had expected 10.9% comps including gas, according to reports.
BJ's said food sales increased by 11% in the five-week period that ended July 5, driven by perishables.
Costco also cited food sales in reporting comps of 5% for the five weeks that ended July 6 at U.S. stores, excluding gas.