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Fred's says sales up in January

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- Fred's Inc. reported Thursday that an extra week helped its revenue for January, but results were more modest by comparison to the prior year on an adjusted basis.

The general merchandise retailer said that its total revenue for January increased 31 percent to $173.6 million compared with $132.4 million in the four-week period of the prior year. But after eliminating the week that ended Feb. 2 of 2013 to make the period comparable to the prior year, its total revenue increased 2 percent for January.

Fred's said that its revenue from stores open at least a year increased 28.6 percent for January but were flat on an adjusted basis. This is considered a key indicator of a retailer's financial performance as it strips away the impact of recently opened or closed stores.

CEO Bruce A. Efird said the company was pleased by improving sales momentum in January, driven by pharmacy and tobacco revenue, as well as programs to help increase the average amount customers decided to spend each visit. He said delays in early tax refunds slowed some sales but overall, management is pleased with the direction of the business.

The company is adding some new pharmacy services, expanding its auto and hardware product offerings and rolling out new concepts, including a smaller drug and dollar store. Efird said that there are significant opportunities to drive higher sales and profits in 2013.

Fred's, based in Memphis, Tenn., operates 712 discount general merchandise stores. Shares fell 10 cents to $13.20 by midmorning, in line with broader market trends.