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Same-store sales gaining momentum

Speaking at the Raymond James and Associates investor conference earlier this week in Orlando, Sam’s Club president and CEO Brian Cornell reaffirmed that Sam’s would achieve its first-quarter sales plan that calls for comp growth in the range of 1% to 3%.

Cornell wasn’t sticking his neck out too far with that claim, as sales for all of February and early March were in the books at the time of his comments. However, if Sam’s wants to continue demonstrating the type of upward momentum achieved throughout 2010 it will need to come in at the high end of its guidance range. More specifically, Sam’s would need to achieve a gain of 2.7% or better, as that was the rate of same-store growth in the fourth quarter. That was on top of a 2.4% increase in the third quarter, a 1% increase in the second quarter and 0.7% in the first quarter.

Cornell contends Sam’s sales growth will come from a combination of remodeling, opening and expanding clubs, enhancing member value, leveraging insights and gaining market share from competitors. He talked about getting up everyday focused on direct competitors such as Costco and BJ’s, but added, “We also recognize that a significant amount of growth we are fighting for comes from the food, drug and mass channels.”

Aside from his comments about sales and trade channels that will serve as a source of market share gains, Cornell’s presentation was filled with generalities that would seem to be of little use to investors. He talked about how Sam’s understands who its member is and is focused on serving them category by category. He noted that technology will continue to play an important role in the future of retail and rising gas prices and a high unemployment rate are impacting the market.