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Another weak month at Hechinger


Hechinger Co., unable to halt its financial tailspin in August, reported yesterday a fifth consecutive month of sales declines.

Overall sales for the Landover-based home improvement chain dropped 15 percent, to $159.7 million, compared with $187 million in August 1994.

August sales in stores that have been open at least a year -- a key indicator of retail performance because it factors out new stores -- fell 13 percent, after declines of 6 percent in July, 7 percent in June, 8 percent in May and 10 percent in April.

"Naturally we were disappointed. This has not been a particularly good year for us," said W. Clark McClelland, Hechinger executive vice president. But, he added, "We're going to continue to slug it out."

As the slump deepened, Hechinger last week announced a series of changes that include scaling back new store openings, shuffling top management and consolidating operations, which the company projects will ultimately mean about $20 million in annual pre-tax savings.

"When you have a prolonged period of disappointing sales, which we have, you look at everything," Mr. McClelland said. "And we have made some significant changes."

But analysts remained troubled by factors out of Hechinger's direct control, such as weak housing turnover, unfavorable weather and the successes of major competitors Home Depot and Lowe's.

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