Wal-Mart Raises Dec. Same-Store Forecast

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, said on Wednesday that December sales at its stores open at least a year will top its earlier forecast as shoppers looked for holiday bargains in the recession.

Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart said it now sees December same-store sales at the upper end of a range from 4 percent to 6 percent, compared with its previous forecast for sales growth at the low end of that range.

Discount chains have consistently outperformed department stores and apparel chains in the shrinking U.S. economy as consumers look for value and stick to purchases of essential items like food.

In a recorded message for investors, Wal-Mart said its exposure to markdowns in coming days will be limited because seasonal goods sold well and discounts will not be needed to move merchandise.

In the period from Nov. 23 through Dec. 24, Wal-Mart said its same-store sales were in the upper end of the mid-single-digit range on a percentage basis.

Best-selling categories during the holiday included women's apparel, electronics and holiday decorations and wrapping paper, the company said.

Shares of Wal-Mart ended at $57.13 in Monday trading on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock is up 24 percent since Sept. 11.