Hechinger reports sales dropped again in month Seventh straight decline is posted in October


Swept up in an industry-wide malaise, Hechinger Co., the Landover-based home improvement chain, reported yesterday a seventh consecutive month of declining sales.

October sales fell 13 percent to $170.3 million, compared with $195.3 million during the same period last year. Sales in stores open at least a year, a key indicator of performance because it factors out new stores, dropped 12 percent.

"The issues in the home center industry are pretty well known at this point," said Hechinger Vice President Richard S. Gross.

The impact of high interest rates, weak housing turnover, lower lumber prices and tepid consumer spending has been widespread.

North Carolina-based Lowe's Cos. reported a 1 percent drop in comparable-store sales in October, while Builders Square, a division of Michigan-based Kmart Corp., reported a 12.3 percent decline.

But Hechinger has felt the crunch even more because "they are absorbing a lot of competitive incursions [in its markets] without expanding in a lot of newer markets," said Kimberly Howard, a retail analyst with Dillon Read & Co. Inc. in New York.

For the third quarter ended Oct. 28, Hechinger sales fell 13 percent, to $549.2 million, compared with $633.9 million during the same period last year. Comparable-store sales were down 13 percent for the quarter.

Over the first three quarters of fiscal 1995, sales declined 9 percent, to $1.75 billion, compared with $1.92 billion during the same period last year.

L Comparable sales were down 8 percent for the three quarters.

Hechinger Class A shares closed yesterday at $4.50, up 19 cents.

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