business news in context, analysis with attitude

• In an announcement that surprised many retail experts, Walmart said yesterday that its December same-store sales were up just 1.7 percent, despite the fact that expectations were that Walmart would have a relatively strong month because of cash-strapped consumers looking for bargains and discounts.

Wal-Mart said that December same-store sales rose 1.9 percent at its namesake stores and only 0.1 percent at its Sam's Club units.

• Target Corp. reports that its December sales rose 0.2% to $9.3 billion, on same-store sales that were down 4.1 percent. The same-store sales number was not good, but not as bad as was expected by analysts, who believed it would be more than twice that.

• The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. (A&P) reported a third quarter loss of $13.6 million, compared to a $57.3 million profit during the same period a year ago. (The year-ago profit numbers included the sale of its Metro chain of stores.) Q3 sales were up 70 percent to $2.12 billion, from $1.25 billion in the prior year, on same-store sales that were up 1.9 percent for A&P stores and down 0.5 percent for Pathmark supermarkets.

• PriceSmart, which operates membership club stores in the Caribbean and Central America, announced that its first quarter sales increased 21.8 percent to $298.5 million from $245.2 million in the first quarter of fiscal year 2008. Total revenue for the first quarter was $305.2 million compared to $250.4 million in the prior year. Same-store sales were up 14.1 percent.

Net income was $10.7 million in the first quarter of fiscal 2009 compared to $6.7 million in the first quarter of fiscal 2008.

KC's View:
When things don't even go well for Walmart, you know you are in a recession. This just demonstrates how fragile the whole construct is right now…