Retailers post strong November sales, apparel a top-performer

Confidence among shoppers also rose

New York City -- Retailers nearly across the board reported a strong start to the holiday season as their November sales were enhanced by aggressive discounting that started early in the month. Same-store sales rose 6% in November,  above the estimated growth of 3.6% and the year-ago gain of 0.6%, according to 27 retailers tracked by Thomson Reuters. 

“Across the board, there was widespread strength,” said Ken Perkins, president of Swampscott, Massachusetts-based Retail Metrics, in a Bloomberg report. “The consumer is feeling better about their situation and is more inclined to spend on discretionary purchases. It bodes well for what will come over the next three and a half weeks.”

Confidence among shoppers also rose in November to the highest level in five months, according to the New York-based Conference Board.

The month was particularly strong for apparel.  Year-over-year total apparel sales in November saw a 9.6% increase, according to a MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse report, which estimates total retail sales across all payment forms. The results were fueled by a 3.9% in sales of women's clothing and a 7.2% gain for men's apparel.

Abercrombie & Fitch reported a 22% gain in its November same-store sales, topping expectations and leading the way among specialty retailers.

Eric Cerny, manager of investor relations, said in the message that while November sales exceeded Abercrombie's own estimates, November was also expected to be the strongest month of the quarter.

"[Sales] growth is expected to moderate for the quarter as a whole, including January being negative," he added.

The Limited reported a same-store sales increase of 10% for the month, which topped analysts’ expectations of a 4% rise.

At  Gap, same-store sales rose 4% in November, better than the Street expected, fueled by gains at namesake stores and Old Navy.

The fickle nature of teen shoppers was reflected in the results of Aeropostale, which had been a strong performer during the recession. The retailer came in below analysts estimates and reported a 1% drop in same-store sales for November. It issued a disappointing fourth-quarter outlook.

American Eagle Outfitter’s same-store results for November were flat, as holiday buying late in the month compensated for slow sales earlier in the month.

Other apparel retailers same-store sales results for November included: 

* The Buckle reported a 7.9% increase;
* At Wet Seal, sales were up 7%;
* Zumiez topped estimates, with a  20.7% increase;
* Cato Corp. saw its sales 5%, handily beating analysts' expectations; and
* At Destination Maternity Corp., sales rose 4%.

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