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Fred's sales metric falls 3.6 pct in November

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- Fred's Inc. reported Thursday that its sales fell for November due to intense competition over the Thanksgiving weekend and the effect of the company's increasingly popular layaway deals, which get reported later.

Revenue for stores open at least a year fell 3.6 percent for the month that ended Nov. 24. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected a 2.8 percent decline. This is considered a key indicator of a retailer's financial performance as it strips away the impact of recently opened or closed stores.

The discount retailer's total revenue dropped 1 percent to $150.4 million.

The retailer struggled with intense competition and increased promotions surrounding Thanksgiving and Black Friday, said CEO Bruce Efird. Black Friday is the traditional start to the holiday shopping season, a key period for retailers.

Fred's said layaway sales climbed to record levels, but that revenue won't be accounted for until final payments are made. The company expects stronger sales ahead as shoppers complete those layaway purchases and its marketing programs pick up.

In the year through November, revenue rose 3 percent to $1.57 billion, but declined 1.1 percent for stores open at least a year.

Fred's operates 709 discount stores in the southeastern United States.