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Wal-Mart Estimates July Sales Up 2.4%

July 31, 2006|From Reuters

CHICAGO — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. estimated Saturday that July sales rose 2.4% at its U.S. stores open at least a year, toward the high end of its forecast, as it lowered prices to lure back-to-school shoppers.

Wal-Mart, the world's biggest retailer, had forecast sales growth at existing stores of 1% to 3%. Wal-Mart and most other major retailers will release final July sales totals Thursday.

Wall Street had been bracing for disappointing July sales after rival discounter Target Corp. lowered its monthly sales forecast July 17, sparking concerns that consumer spending was slowing in the face of steep gasoline prices and rising interest rates.

But Wal-Mart kicked off its back-to-school campaign earlier than usual in July and may have drawn customers away from rivals, analysts said. Wal-Mart used similar tactics during the November-December holiday shopping season in 2005.

Target is now expecting a 3% to 4% sales gain at existing stores, down from its original forecast for 4% to 6% growth.

Target's sales growth has outpaced Wal-Mart's in recent months, in part because Target caters to wealthier shoppers who are less sensitive to rising gasoline prices. Wal-Mart has responded with an advertising campaign touting its low prices.

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