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    Higher Food Sales Buoy October at BJ's

    Perishables and grocery items drove a 12 percent rise in food sales for the month at the warehouse club chain.

    Helped by healthy food sales, BJ's Wholesale Club, Inc. yesterday posted an October 2008 sales increase of 11.6 percent to $738.8 million, from $662.1 million in October 2007.

    Comparable-club sales for October grew by 10.2 percent, including a contribution from gasoline sales of 3.6 percent.

    For the third quarter ended Nov. 1, 2008, meanwhile, total sales rose 13.4 percent to $2.4 billion, and comp sales increased 11.9 percent, including a contribution from sales of gas of 5.3 percent.

    BJ's also said yesterday that because of unprecedented market conditions in the retail gasoline industry during the quarter, profits generated by BJ's gasoline stations greatly surpassed the company's expectations. Mainly due to that higher-than-expected gasoline income, the chain boosted its earnings guidance for the third quarter to a range of 45 cents to 49 cents per diluted share, from previous guidance of 36 cents to 40 cents per diluted share.

    For the first nine months of fiscal 2008, sales grew 14.7 percent, and comps increased 12.3 percent, including a contribution from gas sales of 5.8 percent.

    BJ's noted that food sales increased about 12 percent, driven by solid sales of perishables and grocery items, while general merchandise sales declined by about 2 percent, due primarily to lower sales of televisions, electronics, and jewelry.

    Departments with the strongest sales increases vs. last year included bakery, coffee, dairy, deli, frozen, HBC, meat, oils and shortenings, pet food, paper, pasta, prepared dinners, produce, snacks, soda, and video games. Among the weaker departments than last year were cigarettes, electronics, jewelry, pre-recorded video, televisions, and water.

    Natick, Mass.-based BJ's operates 177 BJ's Wholesale Clubs and 100 gasoline stations in 15 states.

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