Club channel comps not as solid as they seem

ISSAQUAH, Wash. and WESTBOROUGH, Mass. — Costco and BJ’s reported some impressive same-store sales for June, but peel the onion back a bit and the numbers are not quite as stellar as they seem. Sam’s Club does not report monthly sales.

Costco reported a stunning 14% same-store sales increase in June, but that figure benefitted from a number of factors unrelated to selling an increased volume of goods. For starters, there is the issue of gas price inflation and strengthening foreign currencies, which inflated the comp figure. These beneficial effects enabled Costco’s U.S comp to hit 12%, and its international comp was 18% for the combined total of 14%. Strip out gas inflation and currency impacts and those figures drop substantially, with the U.S. comp dipping to 8% and the international figure cut in half to 9%. Then there is the issue of this year’s June reporting period including an additional day when compared to last year. This anomaly aided total sales and comp sales to the tune of 2% to 3%.

Costco’s total sales for June increased 18% to nearly $8.7 billion, bringing the company’s total sales for the first 44 weeks of its fiscal year to $73.4 billion, a 14% increase from the prior year.

Meanwhile, BJ’s said its June comp increased 7.3%, but strip out the impact of higher year-over-year gas prices, and the gain from merchandise sales was a more modest 3.5%. Total sales at BJ’s increased 10.3% to nearly $1.2 billion and through the first 22 weeks of the company’s fiscal year its total sales are up 10.2% to $4.9 billion.

The issue of food price inflation also had an undetermined, but positive impact on comps, as both companies passed through higher costs to consumers.

BJ’s ended June with 190 clubs in 15 states, while Costco ended the period with a total of 584 worldwide clubs. Its store base is comprised of 427 units in the United States and Puerto Rico, 81 clubs in Canada, 32 in Mexico, 22 in the United Kingdom, eight in Japan, seven in Korea, six in Taiwan and one in Australia. Costco plans to open up to eight additional warehouses prior to the end of its 2011 fiscal year on Aug. 28.