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Department stores show mixed results in November

BY Katherine Boccaccio

New York City — In a heavy promotional environment starring early sales and steep discounting, the department store players turned in mixed performances in November. Industry-wide retail sales on Black Friday rose 7% to $11.4 billion, the largest amount ever spent, according to ShopperTrak.

Macy’s Inc., helped in part by earlier store openings on Black Friday, reported a same-store sales rise of 4.8% in November, topping the 3.9% gain expected by Wall Street. The department store retailer’s online sales at macys.com and Bloomingdales.com rose a whopping 49.6% in November, and those results are included in Macy’s same-store revenue results.

This was the first year that Macy’s stores opened at midnight on Black Friday, according to Terry Lundgren, president and CEO. Total revenue for the month rose 5.3% to $2.47 billion. Macy’s maintained its fourth-quarter guidance for same-store revenue to climb 4% to 4.5%. But the company said it could exceed that forecast if November’s trends continue.

J.C. Penney Co. said it wished it had opened earlier on Black Friday. The department store retailer’s same-store sales fell 2% in November, saying it was hurt by the decision to open stores at 4 a.m. on Black Friday instead of opening Thanksgiving evening at least by midnight. Analysts expected a decline of 1.6% in the month.

J.C. Penney said that total monthly revenue declined 5.9% to $1.74 billion in November. Online traffic was up 12% for the holiday weekend. J.C. Penney said that sales made on its web site from Black Friday through Cyber Monday will ship in December and be reported with its December sales figures.

In other November same-store results in the department store sector:

  • Nordstrom same-store sales rose 5.6%.
  • Kohl’s widely missed the expected 2% same-store sales rise in November with a 6.2% decline.
  • Saks reported a 9.3% gain in November.
  • Bon-Ton declined 4.9%.
  • Cato declined 5%.
  • Stage Stores same-store sales were up 2.3% in November.

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Retailers report strong November sales

BY Katherine Boccaccio

New York City — Most retailers are reporting strong sales gains in November, with their performance boosted by heavy traffic over a promotion-fueled Black Friday weekend. Among the retailers that reported results beating Wall Street expectations were Macy’s, Costco Wholesale, Limited Brands and The Buckle.

Target was a notable exception in November, reporting a same-store sales gain of 1.8%, missing Wall Street’s expected 2.8% gain.

According to Thomson Reuters, which tracks 22 chains, analysts on average are expecting same-store sales to rise 3.1% from a year ago. But retailers are up against strong performances last year, when they gained, on average, 5.5% during the month.

“Retailers pulled out all the stops over Black Friday, which fueled record holiday weekend sales and drove solid November growth," said Ken Perkins, president of Retail Metrics, in a Reuters report. "That sets up well for the remainder of the season. But the next two weeks are critical."

Retail sales were up 8.7% over last year’s Black Friday weekend, and totaled $50.06 billion, excluding autos but including gasoline, food and online purchases, according to MasterCard Advisors’ SpendingPulse, which tracks payments in all forms including cash.

In the apparel segment, The Limited turned in a strong performance, recording a 7% rise in November same-store sales, handily beating Wall Street’s expected 4.4% gain. By brand, same-store sales rose 11% at Victoria’s Secret and 6% at Bath and Body Works. The metric declined 7% at its La Senza lingerie chain, however. Total sales for the four weeks ended Nov. 26 fell 2.3% to $872.6 million. The company said the decline was due to the sale of its third-party apparel sourcing business at the beginning of the month.

Gap’s same-store sales metric didn’t fare as well, falling 5% in November, compared with a 5% gain in the same period a year ago and missing Wall Street’s expected 4.3% decline. CEO Glenn Murphy said in a statement that he expects the rest of the holiday shopping season "to remain fiercely competitive and highly promotional."

By Gap brand, Banana Republic North America had the strongest showing, with flat same-store sales in November. Gap North America fell 2% and Old Navy North America plummeted 7%.

In other apparel same-store results for November:

  • Wet Seal same-store sales dipped 3.1%.
  • Zumiez same-store sales rose 2.7%.

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Traffic, ticket increases drive up Pier 1 comps

BY CSA STAFF

FORT WORTH, Texas — Comps continue to improve at Pier 1 Imports, thanks to increased traffic and average ticket size. The company reported that comparable-store sales for the third quarter increased 7%. This was on top of a 10.2% comps increase in the prior-year period.Total sales for the quarter increased 8.2% to $383 million compared with $354 million in the year-ago quarter.

The company said it expects third-quarter earnings to be in a range of 20 cents to 21 cents per share, up from the company’s previously reported estimate of 18 cents per share.

Alex W. Smith, President and Chief Executive Officer, commented, “We are very pleased with our third quarter. Our strong assortments and the right balance between regular and promotional pricing drove strong sales and merchandise margin growth. Consequently, earnings per share are now anticipated to be ahead of our previous estimate. Thanksgiving weekend, the gateway to the holiday season, was excellent with comp-store sales for our three-day event increasing 10% from last year. This was achieved with modest levels of discount – further testament to the quality of our product offering and store experience. We look forward to discussing our third quarter results and providing an update to the balance of the year during our upcoming conference call.”

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