NATICK, Mass. — BJ's Wholesale Clubs here said yesterday it plans to reduce capital spending by 20% or more over the next couple of years as it opens fewer stores per year. Frank Forward, chief financial officer, said BJ's expects to allocate $110 million to $120 million to cap-ex this year, compared with earlier guidance of $140 million to $150 million, with five openings rather than the eight to nine originally forecast. “In the next couple of years, we want to make sure every club we open is really profitable." Forward said. "Historically, we've opened clubs in great growth areas that do not necessarily produce good results, because we had to build brand-name recognition.” He said BJ's anticipates between six and eight club openings next year, “though it could be nine or 10, or it could be seven — unless some great real estate opportunities come along. But at this stage we're saying it will basically be six to eight [a year] for the next couple of years, after which we should go back to a rate of 11 to 14.” Forward made his remarks during a call to discuss financial results for the 13-week first quarter ended May 5, in which net income fell 11.4% to $13.7 million, sales rose 7.5% to $2 billion and comparable sales, excluding gasoline and the negative impact of discontinued pharmacy sales, rose 0.9%.
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