Last year at this time, the weakest part of Wal-Mart's retail empire appeared to be the division named after its founder. Comparable-store sales at Sam's Clubs, the membership warehouse club division of the Bentonville, Ark.-based behemoth, fell 1.6% in October 2002, rising into positive territory (1.3%) the next month before descending back into negative numbers (-2.8%) in December. Simultaneously, comps at the Wal-Mart Stores division of the company, which encompasses its discount stores ...

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