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    BJ's Earnings Go Up

    NATICK, Mass. - BJ's Wholesale Club, Inc. announced today that its quarterly earnings increased due to solid January sales and high gasoline prices, Reuters reports. Additionally, the company predicted better-than-expected earnings for the current year and posted strong February sales.

    NATICK, Mass. - BJ's Wholesale Club, Inc. announced today that its quarterly earnings increased due to solid January sales and high gasoline prices, Reuters reports. Additionally, the company predicted better-than-expected earnings for the current year and posted strong February sales.

    According to BJ's, it earned $49.2 million, or 70 cents per share, in the fourth quarter ended Jan. 31, compared with $48.5 million, or 70 cents per share, the previous year.

    On average, analysts had predicted that the company would earn 65 cents a share, according to Reuters Research, a unit of Reuters Group Plc. BJ's announced last month that it expected to top its earlier forecast of 62 cents to 64 cents per share.

    BJ's, the leader of the Northeast warehouse club market in the United States, has been offering luxury items of late in an effort to beat competitors such as Costco Wholesale Corp. and Sam's Club. The retailer also slashed prices on many basic items and narrowed its focus on individual shoppers, instead of the small-business customers that Sam's Club courts.

    In the latest quarter BJ's benefited from January's snows as consumers stocked up ahead of bad weather.

    Total sales for the fourth quarter went up 12.6 percent to $1.9 billion, BJ's said. Same-store sales increased 7.5 percent, including a 1 percent contribution from gasoline sales at BJ's 78 gas stations.

    When gas prices go up, shoppers often use warehouse-club stations, which usually feature lower prices. That drives sales of gasoline as well as other items that people buy when purchasing gas.

    The company said its February same-store sales shot up 7.9 percent, aided by solid demand for food. Total sales for the four-week period ended Feb. 28 increased 13.6 percent to $488.9 million.

    Looking ahead, the company expects earnings of $1.58 to $1.66 a share for the full year ending Jan. 29, 2005. According to Reuters Research, analysts, on average, forecast $1.57 a share.

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