White Christmas takes toll on Dec. dept. store sales

NEW YORK -- On the heels of a strong November, some department store retailers reported surprisingly weak December revenue. Results were impacted by a blizzard in the Northeast, which took a bite out of sales after Christmas.

The results raised some worries that the holiday season might be less stellar than some had hoped. Still, much of Wall Street still predicts that November and December spending will show the largest annual increase since 2006.

"It's not shaping up to be a blowout holiday for retailers. It's slow and steady," said Ken Perkins, president of RetailMetrics.

Macy's missed the Wall Street mark with a same-store sales gain of 3.9%. Analysts expected a same-store sales rise of 4.5%. But the combined November and December figure rose 4.6% and the retailer is maintaining its profit outlook for the fourth quarter.

“Sales in December were strong at both Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, consistent with our high expectations, despite snowstorms that disrupted after-Christmas shopping along the East Coast,” said Terry J. Lundgren, chairman, president and CEO of Macy’s.

Kohl’s Corp. also fell short of expectations. The company’s same-store sales rose 3.9% in December, compared with the 4.3% increase analysts expected. For the five weeks ended Jan. 1, Kohl's said total revenue climbed 5.9% to $3.19 billion. Online revenue surged 66%.

At JCPenney, same-store sales rose a better-than-expected 3.7% surpassing Wall Street’s expected 3.3% gain. It was the chain’s best holiday sales gains since 2006. Total December sales increased 2.3% to $2.96 billion, with the chain’s off-mall and newer stores, including its Manhattan location, outperforming the company average.

Higher-end retailers turned in strong results as affluent consumers returned to spending. Both Saks and Nordstrom outpaced estimates. Nordstrom reported an 8.4% increase in December same-store sales, while, Saks said same-store sales rose 11.8%.

JCPenney same-store sales rose 3.7% surpassing Wall Street’s expected 3.3% gain.

Other department store same-store sales results include:

Dillard’s same-store sales rose 7%.

Bon-Ton same-store sales edged up 0.1%, citing severe snowstorms for its weak performance.

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