Thursday, off-price retailer TJX Companies Inc. (TJX) said comparable store sales for March advanced 2% and breezed past its expectations, boosted by the scrimp-and-save trend, as budget conscious shoppers opts more for necessities than desires.

Framingham, Massachusetts-based company's sales were $1.7 billion for the five-week period ended April 4, 2009, essentially flat with the $1.7 billion reported during the same period of last year.

While total sales were adversely impacted by foreign currency exchange rates, consolidated comparable store sales for March grew 2%.

Carol Meyrowitz, President and Chief Executive Officer of TJX Companies said, First and foremost, we attribute this to our excellent value proposition on fresh selections of great brands and fashions, even against today's highly promotional competition.

Interestingly, the company, which operates discount retail chains T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods, and A.J. Wright, said almost every division posted a comparable sales growth amid the extremely difficult consumer environment. The company also noted that it believes the weather in March was more favorable in current year than last year, and that one extra selling day in March this year, due to Easter falling in April, helped lift sales.

Among others in the field, Kohl's Corp. (KSS) witnessed a 4.3% downturn in the March comparable store sales, but said Sales results for March exceeded our expectations. Meanwhile, total sales for the month rose 0.5% to $1.433 billion from $1.426 billion in the year-earlier period.

Peer Macy's Inc. (M) reported a 9.2% decline in same-store sales for the month of March, and 9.8% drop in total sales that amounted to $1.931 billion, versus $2.142 billion reported last year.

As well, Target Corp. (TGT) posted a 6.3% drop in March comparable store sales and 2.3% decrease in net retail sales to $5.543 billion from $5.676 billion for the five weeks ended April 5, 2008. In light of the Easter shift and recent trends, the company expects its April reported comparable-store sales results to be essentially flat to last year.

For the nine weeks period, TJX Companies' sales edged down 1% to $2.93 billion from $2.95 billion in the year-ago period. Year-to-date comparable store sales improved 1% over last year.

Based on strong and better than expected sales generated through two consecutive months, the company now forecast first-quarter earnings per share to be at or slightly above the high end of its previously communicated outlook range of $0.32 - $0.38 per share. Wall Street analysts have a consensus earnings estimate of $0.35 per share for the first quarter.

TJX shares, which have been trading between $17.80 and $37.52 in the past 52 weeks, closed Wednesday's trading session at $26.70.

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