WAL-MART’S ROUGH CHRISTMAS: Despite strong weekend business, Wal-Mart Stores said sales at its discount stores were “not sufficient” to meet previous December forecasts, which called for a same-store sales increase in the low to mid-single digits, according to analysts.
The discounter now expects to report a same-store sales increase for December in the low single-digit range. Wal-Mart discount units achieved a 9.7 percent same-store gain in December 1994.
Todd Slater, an analyst at UBS Securities, estimated Wal-Mart would report a same-store gain of 2-3 percent at its discount stores and a 5 percent decline at Sam’s Clubs in December.
Apparel sales at Wal-Mart were mixed; men’s and children’s showed some strength, but women’s was difficult, Wal-Mart said.

PROFITABLE CLUB: PriceCostco Inc., the membership warehouse, said first-quarter earnings rose 2.1 percent to $49.6 million, or 25 cents a share, from $48.5 million, or 22 cents, a year ago.
The per-share increase reflects the higher level of earnings, and the fact that there were 23.2 million fewer shares outstanding following the spin-off of Price Enterprises. Sales for the three months ended Nov. 26 increased 8.9 percent to $4.3 billion from $3.9 billion, while same-store sales rose 3 percent.
PriceCostco has opened three warehouses in the U.S., seven in Canada and one in the United Kingdom since September, giving the company 250 warehouses.

TIME TO CLOSE STORES: The Clothestime Inc. has asked the bankruptcy court for permission to close 137 underperforming stores by Jan. 31.
The Anaheim, Calif.-based off-pricer, which filed for Chapter 11 reorganization Dec. 8 and said at the time roughly 140 stores would have to be closed, will suffer a $2.7 million cash drain from the stores to be shut, according to court papers.
The chain’s remaining 400 stores have a positive cash flow of $29.3 million, according to court papers filed in Santa Ana, Calif., bankruptcy court.
Clothestime is seeking permission to retain Gordon Bros. Partners Inc. to run going-out-of-business sales and liquidate about $18 million in inventory, according to court papers.

KMART STORE TAKEOVER: Gabriel Bros., a privately held off-price retailer, has purchased the vacant Greensburg Plaza in Hempfield Township, Pa., and will open a store in a 65,000-square-foot area that formerly housed a Kmart.
The vacant Kmart is one of about 325 units the discounter has closed in the past 24 months.
The new Gabriel’s, the company’s fourth store, should be open by summer. Other tenants are being sought for the 130,000-square-foot shopping center.

MARKETERS’ MEETING: The International Mass Retail Association will hold its 24th annual advertising, sales promotion and marketing conference March 27-29 at the Sheraton Crescent Hotel, Phoenix.
The theme of the conference is “Thinking Outside the Box.” General session topics include in-store sign strategies, advertising law and the Internet.
Unlike past advertising conferences, however, the 1996 event will not have an exhibit floor for suppliers. Instead, IMRA said it hopes to provide a more “informal environment” for vendor-supplier contact, and has extended the breaks between general sessions and added a sit-down luncheon to the agenda.

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