Originally created 08/24/04

Wal-Mart lowers sales forecast for August



BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's biggest retailer, lowered its sales forecast for August, citing Hurricane Charley's swipe across Florida and slower than expected back-to-school sales.

Wal-Mart had previously expected same-store sales to grow between 2 percent and 4 percent during the month. It advised Monday that the sales will range from flat to up 2 percent.

Wal-Mart closed about 75 stores after Hurricane Charley cut a path from near Fort Myers, Fla., to Daytona Beach on Aug. 13. Florida stores had brisk business in the run-up before the storm, but the company estimated that 200 outlets were affected by the storm, which had winds in excess of 100 mph.

Wal-Mart also said that its back-to-school sales were not hitting company targets. Sales were strongest in uniforms, athletic shoes and new fall fashions. Sales were strongest in the Midwest and South.

Among its U.S. stores, Wal-Mart said it was faring best this month in consumable products including food, household paper products and pet supplies.

Other factors cited in its reduced sales forecast for August were Labor Day's being later in September this year and a reduced amount of clearance merchandise on hand. Last year, August sales benefited from the summertime release of federal child care tax credit checks.