During the month, Fred's opened two stores with relocated pharmacies and closed one Xpress pharmacy locations.Fred's, Inc. operates 701 discount general merchandise stores, including 21 franchised Fred's stores, in the southeastern United States. For more information about the Company, visit Fred's website at www.fredsinc.com. Comments in this news release that are not historical facts are forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those projected in the forward-looking statements. These risks and uncertainties include, but are not limited to, general economic trends, changes in consumer demand or purchase patterns, delays or interruptions in the flow of merchandise between the Company's distribution centers and its stores or between the Company's suppliers and same, a disruption in the Company's data processing services, costs and delays in acquiring or developing new store sites, and other contingencies discussed in the Company's Securities and Exchange Commission filings. Fred's undertakes no obligation to release revisions to these forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances after the date hereof or to reflect the occurrence of unforeseen events, except as required to be reported under the rules and regulations of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Fred's Inc. (NASDAQ: FRED) today reported higher sales for the four-week fiscal month of October, third quarter and nine-month year-to-date period ended November 2, 2013. Fred's total sales for the month increased 2% to $143.4 million compared with $139.9 million in October 2012. Comparable store sales for the month increased 0.8% versus a decline of 0.8% in the same period last year. Total sales for the third quarter of 2013 were $460.5 million, up 2% from $450.6 million in the same period last year. Comparable store sales for the quarter increased 1.4% compared with a decline of 2.5% in the third quarter of 2012. Fred's total sales for the first nine months of 2013 increased 2% to $1.444 billion compared with $1.422 billion for the same period last year. On a comparable store basis, year-to-date sales increased 1.1% versus a decline of 0.8% in the same period last year. Commenting on the announcement, Bruce A. Efird, Chief Executive Officer, said, "Sales for October were at the lower end of our guidance as general merchandise sales were sluggish and consumable driven. Poor weather around Halloween hurt sales and consumers tightened spending during the recent budget crisis, with the combination affecting sales and gross margins in the back half of the month. On the positive side, we experienced strong pharmacy sales and a solid performance from our reconfigured departments, especially Hometown Auto & Hardware." Efird noted that reported sales also were reduced by higher comparable layaway sales, which are not recognized for accounting purposes. "As a result of the October sales performance, we now expect third quarter earnings to be up 5% to 10% over last year," Efird continued. "Forecasts for the upcoming holiday season project a very tough retail environment. In anticipation of these challenges, Fred's merchandising team has maintained inventories at or below last year's levels and has initiated an aggressive and targeted marketing program for the fourth quarter."