Wal-Mart Expects Higher Sales for September

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) said it expects to post September sales at the high end of its forecast, despite having to close more than a hundred stores during the month because of two hurricanes that slammed the Gulf Coast.

The world's largest retailer said Saturday that sales at stores opened at least a year, known as same-store sales, are expected to rise 3.8 percent. Same-store sales are considered the best indicator of a retailer's health. The company previously had forecast same-store sales to be up between 2 percent to 4 percent for the month.

September's business was boosted by demand for such hurricane-related items as canned food, water and cleaning supplies, as well as by higher-than-anticipated sales at its Sam's Club (search) division due to increased gasoline prices, the retailer said.

Wal-Mart said the company saw increased sales in canned foods, water, candles, batteries, flashlights and lanterns as consumers prepared for Hurricane Rita, which made landfall Sept. 24. From Hurricane Katrina (search), which slammed the Gulf Coast in late August, the company is seeing increased sales of basic apparel, hardware and cleaning supplies as residents in the afflicted region recover.

Wal-Mart had to shutter as many as 126 locations because of Hurricane Katrina and 155 locations due to Hurricane Rita. As of Oct. 1, three supercenter locations remained closed due to Hurricane Rita and 12 locations remained closed due to Hurricane Katrina.

Wal-Mart and other major retailers report their September sales results on Thursday.

Shares of Wal-Mart rose 54 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $44.36 on the New York Stock Exchange.