Our sales results for the period will be released on a five-week basis due to the calendar shift this year. Therefore, this year’s sales reporting period included the five weeks ended Friday, Feb. 2, and compares with the five weeks ended Feb. 4 last year.
For the five-week period, comparable sales were up 5.0 percent at the Wal-Mart division and 9.9 percent at the clubs. Total company comparable sales increased 6.0 percent for the five-week period.
The actual sales results for the five-week period were:
|Total Company Sales||$16.701 B vs. $14.741 B||Up 13.3%|
|Wal-Mart||$10.312 B vs. $ 9.105 B||Up 13.3%|
|Sam’s Clubs||$2.290 B vs. $ 2.037 B||Up 12.4%|
|McLane||$993 M vs. $ 678 M||Up 46.5%|
|International Sales||$ 3.107 B vs. $ 2.921 B||Up 6.4%|
Our original forecast for the January reporting period was for a comparable sales increase in the mid single-digit range. The Wal-Mart division finished in line with our original expectations while SAM’S came in well above plan.
Following the National Retail Federation’s 4-5-4 calendar, sales for the 53-week period totaled $195.5 billion. Using our fiscal year calendar ending Jan. 31, however, total sales were approximately $192 billion.
The month started very strong as both divisions benefited from an easy Y2K comparison and more normalized weather. Weaker categories included discretionary items such as appliances, office furniture and selected apparel categories, which were not as strong as we have seen in previous months.
The Wal-Mart division experienced its best results in housewares, electronics, pet supplies, floral, household paper products and cosmetics. Health and beauty aids and fresh food also remained strong during the period. Some apparel categories like boy’s and girl’s wear remained weaker than hoped in January, but infants and toddlers, plus and maternity, and basics were all above the division average. Sales were strong geographically in the West and Northeast.
SAM’S strongest categories were HBA, paper goods, floral, food, men’s and basic apparel, hardware, toys, sporting goods and optical. The weaker categories included electronics, office furniture and supplies and books. Also, membership renewal income for the month was strong.
We opened two new Neighborhood markets during the period, one in Mesquite, Texas, and Oklahoma City. There are now 19 Neighborhood Markets operational.
The McLane Company percentage sales increase over last year of 46.5 percent is largely due to the addition of AmeriServe’s food service business early in December.
Canada, Mexico, South Korea and United Kingdom led the International division and were all above plan. In general, international inventories remain on plan. At ASDA, sales growth accelerated into the first month of the year, building on an already very successful Christmas. For the January period, ASDA posted total sales in the high single digits and comps in the high mid- single digits, which we believe outperformed the industry average.
Now, for an update you on the 4th quarter. In past years, December has accounted for roughly 40 to 50 percent of the sales dollars in the 4th quarter, leaving November and January as relatively small portions of the total. As we stated in last month’s sales release, holiday sales were significantly weaker than anticipated, which has a dampening effect on the entire quarter. With that said, inventories should end the year in excellent shape and we now anticipate a LIFO credit for the year.
Our last indication for the quarter was that we believed sales would be below our original expectations, but earnings would be up from the prior year. As we said earlier, total sales for the quarter will come in below our early estimates. On a comp basis, sales appear to be approximately 3 percent for the quarter. We believe earnings will be up slightly from the prior year’s 4th quarter of $0.43 per share.
Finally, let’s discuss the upcoming month and quarter. While it is difficult to predict sales in the current environment, we have based our estimate on current sales results. With that said, for the month of February and for the 1st quarter, we are currently estimating a total company comp of 3- 5 percent, with our current forecast for the February period at the low end of that range.
Our earnings for the fiscal year ended Jan. 31, 2001, will be released on Tuesday, Feb. 20. To ensure equal access to all investors, we will issue the press release before the opening of the NYSE on Feb 20.
Once it has been posted over the wire services, we will turn on the call, making it available to everyone simultaneously. The phone number for the pre-recorded call is 402/220- 3103. If this number is busy, you can dial 973/633-1010.
Our sales information will be updated weekly. The update is posted on Monday with the exception of the week of the official sales release date when the posting occurs on Thursday.
Our next monthly sales release will be for the four weeks ending March 2, 2001. The release date is March 8, 2001. Our earnings for the 1st quarter of fiscal year ending Jan. 31, 2002 will be released on May 15, 2001.