- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 6, 2003

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill., March 6 (UPI) — Sears, Roebuck and Co., the nation's fourth-largest retailer, said its same store sales, or sales at stores open at least one year fell 9.4 percent during the 4-week selling period ended March 1 as winter storms forced the company to close more than 100 stores.

The retailer said its total sales for the period fell 7.9 percent, to $1.7 billion from $1.9 billion for the four weeks ended March 2, 2002.

The retailer said sales were hurt by severe winter weather on the East Coast during the President's Day weekend, which forced the closure of about 130 stores as well as key distribution centers.

Revenue also reflected a "shift in promotional activities away from February and into March, as well as the continuing effect of certain category exits during the past year," Sears said.

Sears said full-line store sales included double-digit percentage growth in fine jewelry and high-single digit percentage growth in footwear, while specialty stores showed a mid-single digit decline.

Sears last Friday fell from the ranks of single-A-rated companies after Standard & Poor's cut its rating to triple-B-plus, citing problems at the company's credit-card business. The move affected about $11 billion in debt outstanding and brought S&P;'s credit rating about in line with those from Moody's Investors Service and Fitch Ratings.

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