business news in context, analysis with attitude

Despite the fact that the war in Iraq seems to proceeding as planned, with Baghdad being liberated and much of the population seeming to welcome the coalition soldiers as liberators, the retail situation here at home doesn’t seem to be getting any better.

  • McDonald’s Corp. blamed the effects of war for its 13th consecutive monthly sales decline in March, with worldwide same-store sales down 3.7 percent last month, while sales in the U.S. were off 1.2 percent.

  • Same-store sales at Wal-Mart during March were up a scant 0.7 percent, with net sales in the five-week period ended April 4 reaching $23.18 billion, up 7.8 percent from a year earlier. Wal-Mart blamed its performances on unseasonably cool weather and the "CNN effect," or consumers' preoccupation with watching events from the war in Iraq on TV…though it also noted that its results were strongest in the Midwest and northeast US, where the weather was coolest.

  • For the latest five-week period ended April 5, Target said same-store sales fell 2.3 percent. Total sales were up 4.6 percent from a year ago to $3.89 billion. Same-store sales for Target outlets rose 6.1 percent.

However, not every company was suffering…

  • Dollar General Corp. reported that March sales rose 4.2 percent at stores open at least a year, with total sales for the five weeks ended April 4 up 12.9 percent to $602.5 million.

  • BJ's Wholesale Club Inc.'s March same-store sales rose 5.9 percent, and total sales for the five weeks ended April 5, rose 15.8 percent to $553.9 million from $478.3 million a year earlier.

And, in other financial news…

  • Ahold announced that it will request from its shareholders an extension of the deadline for publishing its 2002 results at a general meeting on May 13, possibly for as long as six months. This has to do with a war…not the one in Iraq, but the one Ahold is fighting to return to respectability after revelations of accounting “irregularities” and a $500 million overstatement of profits.

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