Boosted by good weather, Hechinger Co. had the best month in the chain's 69-year history in April, company officials said yesterday.
Richard England, Hechinger's chairman, said the "perfect weather" helped the company set daily, weekly and monthly sales records during April.
In addition, on April 12 Hechinger stores had their first $1 million day, England told the Washington Society of Investment Analysts.
Although England pointed out that March sales for the local firm, which has 26 stores, were below expectations, the strong April performance left the company with first-quarter earnings "well up" over last year.
The company will release those figures formally later this month.
Officials of the company, in their presentation yesterday, stressed that Hechinger is a "recession-resistant business, whose recent explosive growth can only be aided by the growing public interest in home maintenance."
England pointed out that during the 1974 recession company sales increased by 22 percent, and in 1975 the increase rose to 40 percent.
"Despite adversity, the average person will sacrifice in many other aspects of life in order to safeguard and maintain what is generally the biggest investment of a lifetime -- his or her house," England said.
"Maybe food and clothing are more compelling life necessities; if so, shelter is a close third. Our business is to help people's houses from falling apart," he told the group.
In addition to the timely nature of Hechinger's products, officials also emphasized internal management moves within the company that maintain quality control and high-volume sales.
Last year, Hechinger's average price increase was 6.1 percent, less than half the 1979 annual inflation rate of 13.3 percent, they said.
"This was accomplished with only a minor effect on our gross margins and a very positive effect on sales," said Stephen Bachand, the senior vice president, who called the limit on price hikes "a difficult tightrope act which can only be successful with good controls."
England said the company is in a position to maintain the 20 percent annual growth rate it has reported since the company began offering public stock eight years ago.
The aging nature of the nation's housing stock -- combined with rising housing costs, the increase of the do-it-yourselfers between the ages of 25 and 44 and recently enacted tax credits on energy-saving devices -- can only contribute to the company's growth rate, England said.
In addition to sales growth, Hechinger officials at the meeting including President John Hechinger, also emphasized that the company, with headquarters in Landover, is now a mid-Atlantic chain, rather than just a Washington-area operation.
A Hechinger outlet in Richmond, the company's first there, is scheduled to open within four months, and Hechinger said the company expects to have a total of 30 outlets within a couple of years.