Easter shift impacts warehouse clubs slightly

ISSAQUAH, Wash. and WESTBOROUGH, Mass. -- The shifting of Easter to April this year impacted the warehouse club sector last month, as both Costco and BJ’s reported March comps that were negatively impacted by the calendar change. Without the benefit of Easter sales, both companies still managed to turn out respectable comps.

Costco reported net sales of $8.33 billion for the month of March, an increase of 17% from $7.15 billion during the similar period last year. According to the company, its March total and comparable sales performance benefitted by approximately 1% to 2% because of one additional sales day this year, partially offset by several days of pre-Easter sales strength a year ago. Costco added that this year's five-week period included sales from the company's Mexico joint venture, as the company began consolidating its Mexico operations on a prospective basis beginning with its 2011 fiscal year; without those sales the net sales increase would have been 14%.

Costco’s U.S. same-store sales for March increased 11%. Considering the impact of gasoline, U.S. comps were up 7%.

Over at BJ’s, the shift of Easter to the April reporting period this year impacted the company’s merchandise comparable-club sales by approximately 2%. The company reported that sales for March 2011 increased by 9.1% to $1.08 billion from $992.7 million in March 2010. 

The company reported same-store sales for the month increased by 5.3%. Excluding fuel, same-store sales increased by approximately 1.3%.  By comparison, BJ’s March 2010 merchandise same-store sales rose 7.3%, reflecting the positive impact of Easter sales.

According to BJ’s, March sales were strongest in such food categories as breakfast needs, coffee, cookies & crackers and prepared foods. While general merchandise sales were weaker in such areas as apparel, pre-recorded video, sporting goods, televisions and toys.

Costco operates 580 warehouses, including 424 in the United States and Puerto Rico, 80 in Canada, 22 in the United Kingdom, seven in Korea, six in Taiwan, eight in Japan, one in Australia and 32 in Mexico. It plans to open up to 14 additional new warehouses (including the relocation of a warehouse to a larger and better-located facility and the reopening of San Marcos, Calif. -- previously closed for an onsite relocation) prior to the end of its 2011 fiscal year on Aug. 28. The Tamasakai, Japan warehouse, closed for repair of earthquake damage, is expected to reopen before the end of calendar year 2011.

BJ's Wholesale Club operates 190 warehouse clubs in 15 states.