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    BJ's Same-Store Sales Roar in March

    The warehouse club chain's food sales continue to gain, while its March comps beat analysts' expectations.

    Driven in large part by robust food sales, BJ's Wholesale Club, Inc. yesterday posted a March 2008 sales increase of 8.5 percent, to $858.1 million, from $790.9 million in March 2007. Comparable-club sales grew 6.0 percent for the month of March 2008, including a contribution of 3.4 percent from gasoline sales.

    A calendar shift in the timing of Easter had a negative impact of about 2.5 percent to 3.0 percent on comparable-club sales.

    In the year-ago period the company reported a comparable-club sales increase of 5.5 percent, including a positive impact from gas sales of 2.1 percent and a negative impact from the absence of pharmacy sales of 0.4 percent. A calendar shift in the timing of pre-Easter holiday sales vs. March 2006 had a positive impact on comparable-club sales of about 1.5 percent to 2.0 percent.

    Food sales rose about 5 percent for the month, while general merchandise sales declined about 1 percent, according to BJ's.

    Among the departments with the strongest sales increases over last year were coffee and tea, dairy, eggs, juices, frozen, health and beauty, paper, pet food, produce, televisions and toys, the company said, adding that weaker departments vs. last year included apparel, cigarettes, electronics, furniture, pre-recorded video, storage, and summer seasonal.

    BJ's noted that excluding gas sales, traffic was essentially flat vs. last year, reflecting a negative impact of about 2.5 percent to 3.0 percent from a calendar shift in the timing of Easter. The average transaction amount grew about 4 percent, the company said.

    Natick, Mass.-based BJ's operates 177 clubs in 16 states. Its March sales were up in all regions, with the highest increase in upstate New York, and the smallest in the New England region.

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