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Halloween Spooks October Sales

BY CSA STAFF

New York City, The outlook for the holiday shopping season grew bleaker Thursday after retailers announced disappointing October sales results due to consumers’ ongoing worries about housing and higher energy prices, according to the Associated Press.

The downbeat news came from all sectors including mall-based apparel stores such as Limited Brands Inc. and department stores. Even upscale Nordstrom Inc. posted a rare sales decline, while Wal-Mart Stores Inc. posted sales below expectations despite its aggressive discounting heading into the holidays. Target Corp., however, fared well in October, posting a 4.1% gain in same-store sales, above the 2.5% forecast.

Milder-than-normal weather also continued to hurt store sales, wiping out consumers’ appetite for winter wear. Amid such challenges, many stores including Wal-Mart and Toys “R” Us Inc. aimed to jump-start the season early this year by offering door busters and big discounts starting last weekend. But shoppers don’t seem to be in a hurry to buy.

Wal-Mart posted a 0.4% gain in same-store sales, below the 1.1% gain expected by analysts polled by Thomson Financial. Wal-Mart said sales of Halloween merchandise were solid across all departments, but seasonal categories related to cold weather including apparel and home furnishings were weak. The company forecast that same-store sales growth will be no more than 2% in November.

Among department stores, Nordstrom, which reported a weaker-than-expected 3.2% same-store sales gain in September, posted a 2.4% drop in October.

Macy’s posted a 1.5% decline in same-store sales, worse than the 0.6% projection.

J.C. Penney Co. had a 1.8% decline in same-store sales in its department store business; analysts expected a 0.6% increase. Penney stuck with its third-quarter outlook but reduced its sales expectations for the remainder of the year to reflect the weak spending environment. Fourth-quarter same-store sales are expected to decline in the low single digits.

Kohl’s Corp. posted a 3.8% drop, dragged down by weak sales in weather-sensitive businesses such as outerwear, fleece and sweaters. Analysts expected a 0.5% gain.

Limited had a 6% drop in same-store sales, worse than the 1.6% drop Wall Street had expected. Meanwhile, Gap Inc. had an 8% decline in same-store sales, worse than the 4.5% forecast.

Pacific Sunwear of California Inc.’s 0.8% decline in same-store sales was worse than the expected 2.8% increase. Some retailers managed to buck the trend. Saks Inc., which operates Saks Fifth Avenue, posted a 10.6% gain in same-store sales, well-exceeding the 5.4% estimate.

Costco Wholesale Corp. had a 9% gain in same-store sales, well-exceeding the 5.7% estimate. Results at the company, which sells gasoline at its warehouse stores, were somewhat inflated by an uptick in gas prices in October, from a year ago. Excluding gas price inflation, sales would have been up 5%. BJ’s Wholesale Club Inc. said food and gasoline sales drove its same-store sales 4.8% higher in October, above analysts’ expectations.

Christopher & Banks Corp. said Thursday that October same-store sales surged 22%, well-above Wall Street forecasts, driven by results from the company’s first friends-and-family promotion. Buckle Inc. said Thursday its same-store sales jumped 14.9% in October.

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Whole Foods execs barred from online forums

BY CSA STAFF

AUSTIN, Texas Whole Foods has update its code of business conduct, barring senior officers from speaking about the company on online forums that are not sponsored by Whole Foods.

The company said that the change was made to prevent improper use of company information, and to avoid giving the impression that statements made in an internet chat room, message board or blog are on Whole Foods behalf. Whole Foods added that postings can not involve any matter related to the company or its competitors or vendors, nor can they be made under the person’s name, anonymously, under a screen name or through another person.

Whole Foods said that anyone who violates this policy may be dismissed from the company.

Whole Foods policy change comes not so far after ceo John Mackey admitted to posting messages on an online message board under the alias “rahodeb.”

In July, right in the middle of Whole Foods battle with the FTC over its merger with Wild Oats, Mackey confirmed that he submitted postings to a Yahoo! forum regarding Wild Oats from 1999 to 2006, saying that its stock was too high and the company would go bankrupt. He later apologized for his participation, saying that it was an error in judgment.

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Eagles Wal-Mart-only album tops the charts

BY CSA STAFF

BENTONVILLE, Ark. Selling its first new album in 28 years exclusively through Wal-Mart Stores has proven successful for the Eagles, with the band capturing the top spot on the Billboard Top 200 chart, Billboard announced Tuesday.

In a separate announcement, Wal-Mart reported that the Eagles’ “Long Road Out of Eden,” released on Oct. 30 at Wal-Mart, Walmart.com, Sam’s Clubs and Samsclub.com, has sold more than 700,000 units in its first week of release, representing the largest first week sales of any music product at Wal-Mart in the last two years.

Despite the success of the album, at first it was not eligible to appear on the Billboard chart, because it was only sold at Wal-Mart. However, thanks to a policy change announced by Billboard Tuesday, exclusive album titles that are only available through one retailer are now able to appear on The Billboard 200 and other charts, effective with this week’s charts.

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