ELECTRONICS SALES CATCH BUZZ IN APRIL

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Retailers' results dampened somewhat in April, but resurging sales of consumer electronics brightened the picture.

Specialty electronics retailers Circuit City Stores and Best Buy Co. last week reported soaring sales, while general retailers with a broad assortment of electronics, including Wal-Mart Stores and Sears, Roebuck & Co., fared significantly better than their rivals.

Analysts say the softened sales results were due to the fact that Easter fell in March in 1993 vs. April this year.

"Adding March and April sales together, overall retail sales were solid. And retailers with strong offerings in hard lines, like Wal-Mart and Sears, did considerably better," said Bernard Sosnick, a retail analyst with Oppenheimer & Co., New York.

Best Buy had a spectacular April, with sales at stores open at least one year up a whopping 36%, bringing total sales for the month to $251 million. Even more impressive are the Minneapolis-based electronics and entertainment software retailer's year-to-date sales, which increased 98%, to $595 million.

The winning formula Best Buy uses includes value-driven prices on a wide assortment of merchandise mixing electronics with music, videos and videogame hardware and software, analysts say.

Best Buy is also in the midst of rapid expansion, currently operating 152 outlets in 18 states while planning to add 50 more stores in the next 12 months.

Circuit City Stores, Richmond, Va., whose sales have been erratic over the past few years, had a 13% increase in April sales at stores open at least a year, with total sales reaching $326.5 million.

Wal-Mart's April sales at stores open at least one year increased 11%, with total sales reaching $6.26 billion; Sears' sales for the month at stores open a year or more grew 12.3%, bringing total sales to $1.89 billion.

Continuing its lackluster performance, Kmart Corp.'s same-store sales for April declined 1.6%, with total sales of $2.62 billion, while J.C. Penney Co. posted an unexpected decline of 2.1% in April for stores open at least a year, with total sales of $1.36 billion. Penney's catalog sales soared in April, increasing 11.8% with strong demand noted in its electronics departments.

Dayton Hudson Corp., whose CEO Kenneth Macke resigned suddenly last month, reported a 2% increase in its stores open at least a year; that brought total sales to $1.32 billion.

In a surprising reversal, the company's same-store sales at its department store unit grew a healthy 7% while same-store sales at its Target Stores discount division grew only 1%

Discounter Venture Stores' April same-store sales skidded by 5.1%, with total sales of $123.5 million at the 104-store chain. Exec VP-Marketing Jim Miller also resigned suddenly last week. No replacement has yet been named.

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