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Hechinger May sales drop 8% after April decline


Hechinger Co., the Landover-based home improvement chain, suffered poor sales for a second straight month in its important spring season.

Sales in Hechinger stores open for at least a year fell by 8 percent during May after a 10 percent decline in April, compared with the same months in 1994. The company blamed a slowdown in home buying and poor weather that hurt sales in its Midwestern stores.

The May-July period "is their most important quarter of the year," said Kenneth F. Smith, who follows Hechinger for Charlotte, N.C.-based investment house Interstate/Johnson Lane. "It's what you might call their Christmas quarter."

Same-store sales results in Hechinger's Home Quarters Warehouse division, which has stores in the South and Midwest, were particularly poor, declining by 12 percent.

"What I hope happens is that we didn't miss spring . . . that we have a late spring rather than no spring at all," said W. Clark McClelland, Hechinger's executive vice president.

Hechinger's Class A shares yesterday closed at $7.625, up 6.25 cents. Class B shares closed at $7.50, unchanged.

Financial analysts expect Hechinger's earnings to decline this year compared with last. The company competes fiercely with Home Depot, Lowe's and other do-it-yourself stores.

Home Depot doesn't disclose monthly sales results. Lowe's same-store sales increased by 4 percent last month.

John Eade, who follows Hechinger for Argus Research Corp. in New York, thinks profits will fall to 55 cents per share this year, down from 73 cents last year, not counting one-time charges.

"They're having some tough times," he said.

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