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Late BTS rush boosts Fred’s Aug. sales up 2.8% to $140 million

BY Michael Johnsen

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Fred’s on Thursday posted $139.9 million in sales, up 2.8%, for the four weeks ended Aug. 25. Comparable-store sales for the month decreased 2.8%, versus an increase of 1.6% in the same period last year.

"Although comparable-store sales for August were slow, an increase in late back-to-school sales put us ahead of our recently issued guidance for the month," Fred’s CEO Bruce Efird said. "In addition, our pharmacy department’s performance remained strong, primarily due to ongoing script growth and generic drug introductions, together with our aggressive pursuit of new pharmacy acquisitions."

Fred’s recently announced several initiatives in an effort to increase foot traffic, including additional direct mailers and the expansion of the company’s SmartCard loyalty program. Fred’s also expanded assortments across home, hardware and automotive departments.

Fred’s total sales for the year-to-date period increased 3% to $1.1 billion. On a comparable-store basis, year-to-date sales decreased 0.8% versus an increase of 0.6% over the same period last year.

During the month, Fred’s opened three new stores and five new pharmacies.

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Q3 off to good start at Target

BY Mike Troy

MINNEAPOLIS — A 4.2% increase in August same-store sales at Target was at the high end of the company’s forecast range.

The solid showing during August was noteworthy because it came on top of a prior-year increase of 4.1% and was attributable primarily to an increase in average transaction size. According to Target, about three-fourths of the increase was due to growth in ticket with increase shopper traffic accounting for the remainder of the comp increase.

"Sales were stronger in the second half of the month, as guests responded to Target’s broad assortment and compelling value for their back-to-school and back-to-college shopping," said Target chairman, president and CEO Gregg Steinhafel.

As in prior months, comps were strongest in food which experienced a high single-digit increase, and in health and beauty, which experienced a mid single-digit increase. August comparable-store sales in apparel increased in line with the company average while the home and hardlines areas experienced a low single-digit increase.

The company said sales strength was broad-based with every region of the country reporting an increase and described its month end inventories as being in very good condition.

The modestly better than expected sales performance during August wasn’t enough to cause the company to elevate expectations for September. Comps for the coming month are forecast to increase in the low single digits.

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Nielsen: U.S. grocery shoppers go online to save money

BY Marianne Wilson

SCHAUMBURG, Ill. — Consumers focus on savings when they log in to their digital devices to shop for groceries, according to a new study from Nielsen. The top weekly U.S. activities related to grocery shopping on a connected device, ranging from a mobile phone to tablet, included reading online grocery circulars (62%), looking for coupons online (55%) and browsing a manufacturer’s website for a grocery category (55%).

The "Nielsen Global Survey of Digital’s Influence on Grocery Shopping" also found top monthly U.S. activities included looking for deals and coupons (both at 43%), followed by price checking/consumer reviews (37%). The highest ranked daily activities were using digital shopping lists (39%) and looking for deals online (31%).

"Connected consumers and their devices are providing consumer packaged goods makers and retailers with options to differentiate their brands and stay relevant," Nielsen SVP consumer and shopper insights Todd Hale said. "Those who can keep up with what matters most to digital shoppers will be well positioned for the short and long term."

When asked which factors influenced their grocery purchase decisions compared with a year ago, U.S. respondents identified rising food prices (49%), health factors such as heart/cholesterol/weight (28%) and increased transportation costs (28%) as having a “major impact” on their decisions. Food labeling (25%) and retailer loyalty programs (24%) rounded out the top five U.S. “major impact” categories.

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