Shoppers Downgrade, and Warehouse Clubs Win

Costco, BJ's, and Big Lots all show good results.

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The deal's the thing, apparently. That's the message coming out of today's retail earnings reports from Costco, BJ's Wholesale Club, and Big Lots, where results were boosted by penny-pinching shoppers' shift to lower-cost stores.

Big Lots shares surged more than 20 percent after earnings excluding charges rose to 93 cents a share, besting estimates by a penny. The company also raised guidance for its fiscal first quarter and all of 2008.

BJ's Wholesale Club beat earnings expectations by four cents, sending shares up more than 10 percent in early trading.

Costco Wholesale's second-quarter profit jumped 31 percent, though comparisons were easy given some hefty charges in the year-ago period. Costco met estimates and said that while luxury items aren't moving off the shelves as quickly, shoppers still like the idea of buying in bulk. Its shares fell 2 percent.

With gas prices rising and the job market softening, it's little wonder consumers are looking to scrimp a bit. On the jobs front, the monthly ADP employment report showed that the economy shed 23,000 private-sector jobs during February.