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    Wal-Mart's March Sales Up, but April Outlook Cautious

    BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- Grocery sales, a higher average ticket, and an earlier Easter holiday helped Wal-Mart Stores boost March same-store sales at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club units by 4 percent. Total sales, including international sales, rose 11.7 percent to $34.26 billion.

    BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- Grocery sales, a higher average ticket, and an earlier Easter holiday helped Wal-Mart Stores boost March same-store sales at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club units by 4 percent. Total sales, including international sales, rose 11.7 percent to $34.26 billion.

    For the five-week period, grocery sales were strong, particularly in food and dry grocery, the retailer said. Produce, dairy, and bakery also did well.

    The prescription side of pharmacy had comparable store sales in the mid-teens, Wal-Mart noted, as consumers continue to respond to the company's $4 generic program. Consumer purchases also were strong in toys and lawn and garden.

    In the Wal-Mart division, same-store sales rose 3.4 percent. Total sales jumped 9.6 percent to $22.12 billion.

    The Sam's Club warehouse club stores, meanwhile, saw a 7.4 percent spike in same-store sales. The results were boosted by food, consumables, and electronics, the company said. Seasonal categories also did well, due to the warmer weather and a positive reception to the Sam's Club spring catalog. Business member traffic rose.

    Total sales at Sam's Club rose 8.9 percent to $4.16 billion.

    Internationally, total sales rose 19.3 percent to $7.98 billion.

    Looking ahead, the company said it expects April same-store sales in the U.S. to be flat to down 2 percent, due to the Easter calendar shift, and strength in the year-ago period.

    Sales for the combined March/April nine-week reporting period are expected to rise between 1 percent and 2 percent. The same-store sales increase for the related nine-week period of March/April last year was 3.4 percent.

    "Earnings per share from continuing operations for the first quarter of fiscal year 2008 were estimated to be $0.68 to $0.71," said Tom Schoewe, e.v.p. and c.f.o., in a statement. "While the earnings guidance is still attainable, given the tough sales environment for the April period, it will be a challenge."

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