US stores report dismal April sales

US retailers reported poor sales for April as cold weather in some parts of the country combined to depress sales with economic pressures and the impact of an early Easter that moved some seasonal buying into the previous month.

Wal-Mart, the largest US retailer, reported a sharper-than-expected 3.5 per cent fall in sales at stores open at least a year, with sales at its US discount stores and supercenters down 4.6 per cent, and Sam’s Club warehouse sales up 2.5 per cent.

Target, its discount rival, said April stores fell 6.1 per cent, having warned last month that sales would be weaker than its original forecast of a decline of 2 to 4 per cent.

Bob Ulrich, Target’s chief executive, said the retailer remained "on track to achieve our overall financial expectations in 2007".’

Target’s total sales fell slightly during the month, while Wal-Mart’s rose 3.7 per cent to $26.56bn.

Federated department stores, which operates Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, reported a 2.2 per cent fall in same store sales, while JC Penney reported a 2.7 per cent decline, both worse the Wall Street analysts had predicted.

Ken Perkins, president of Retail Metrics, a firm that tracks the data, said its April monthly sales index fell 1.8 per cent, and that 80 per cent of the retailers reported sales figures that missed Wall Street’s expectations. He described the data as the "single weakest monthly same store sales performance in memory".

He argued that the "terrible" April sales figures should not be taken in isolation, but considered with the March data that was inflated by the early Easter holidays. When averaged across the two months, the same store sales index rose 2.1 per cent.

Retail stocks fell on the news.

Source: Jonathan Birchall in New York for

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