BJ's to close 5 stores; December comp sales up 3.8 percent

NEW YORK (Reuters) - BJ's Wholesale Club Inc BJ.N, which is on the auction block, said it would close five stores due to weak sales and take a charge for restructuring.

BJ’s, which operates 194 stores that sell goods at a discount to its members, said on Wednesday it was closing three stores in Atlanta, one in Sunrise, Florida, and another in Charlotte, North Carolina.

In November, BJ's hired Morgan Stanley MS.N to run an auction of the company and explore other strategic options. Leonard Green & Partners LP announced a 9.5 percent stake in the company in July and said it might propose taking it private.

BJ’s could not be reached immediately for comment.

The company said it plans to restructure its home office and some field operations, and estimated it would take a charge of 78 cents to 82 cents a share in its fourth quarter, which ends January 29, for those projects and the store closings.

The retailer said comparable-store sales, including gasoline sales, rose 3.8 percent in December, hurt in part by a snowstorm that hit the U.S. East Coast late in the month. That missed Wall Street forecasts for a 4.4 percent increase, according to Thomson Reuters.

Excluding gasoline, comparable sales were up 1.4 percent, well below the 3.4 percent analysts were expecting.

BJ’s also said Robert Eddy would succeed Frank Forward as chief financial officer, effective January 30.

Reporting by Helen Chernikoff and Phil Wahba; Editing by Derek Caney, John Wallace, Dave Zimmerman