West Marine’s sales take hit from hurricanes

WATSONVILLE, Calif. – Net sales for West Marine Inc. fell 4.6 percent for the third quarter – from $191.9 million for the same period in 2003 to $183.1 million this year – the marine retailer reported in a release yesterday afternoon.

West Marine’s comparable store net sales for the third quarter were also down, falling 7.7 percent compared to 2003.

The company said its net sales for the five weeks ended Oct. 2 were $54.5 million, a 3.7-percent decrease compared to net sales of $56.6 million for September last year. And comparable store net sales for September 2004 decreased 6.5 percent compared to the same period a year ago.

“Our mid-September earnings update warned about the continuing soft trend in customer spending that we first observed in the latter part of June,” John Edmondson, CEO of West Marine, said. “September sales, however, were lower than we expected because hurricanes had a more pronounced and widespread impact than we had anticipated. Hurricane Ivan, which had not yet landed when we issued our press release, tore through Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida before doubling back and striking Texas.

“Combined with a fourth hurricane, Jeanne, sales in our Southeast region and large parts of our Northeast region were significantly affected. Historically, the net effect of hurricanes on our business has been mostly neutral over time because sales in affected areas usually improve as boat owners make necessary repairs. This improvement, however, takes place over a more prolonged period of time.”

Edmondson said West Marine was lowering its third quarter earnings estimate to $0.32 per share due to lower than expected September sales and higher than expected hurricane preparation and recovery costs,

West Marine, Inc. reported that net September comparable store sales by region were as follows: Western -3.7 percent, Northeast -8.5 percent and Southeast -6.5 percent.

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