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ICSC: Holiday sales up 3%

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Sales for the November-December holiday period increased 3.0%, based on a tally of monthly reporting firms compiled by the International Council of Shopping Centers. The rise came despite the extreme weather across much of the United States during prime holiday shopping time, and a shortened holiday season.

For the two-month holiday-selling period of 2013, U.S. chain-store sales for the industry — as reflected by the monthly reporting firms — outpaced the prior year’s rise of 1.8%, though individual retailer performance was very uneven and sales were extremely promotional across a wide spectrum of retailers, causing some retailers to warn of weaker earnings for the quarter.

“While some retailers undoubtedly faced a tough holiday season with more promotional activity, bouts of adverse weather and a cautious consumer, overall industry sales met expectations and managed to outpace last year’s growth rate,” said Michael P. Niemira, chief economist and VP of research for ICSC.

For the calendar year of 2013, industry sales grew by 3.3% — in line with holiday season — and was the strongest annual sale performance since 2011 when sales spurted by 4.7%

Looking ahead to the end of the fiscal year for most retailers, ICSC Research forecasts January monthly comparable-store sales will increase by between 3% and 3.5% over last year, just slightly under the December increase.

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Better late than never, Cato debuts online

BY CSA STAFF

Women’s apparel retailer Cato has made its debut into the world of online shopping with the launch of its first ever e-commerce site. The announcement came as the retailer reported holiday sales for the five-week period ended Jan. 4.

Founded in 1946, Cato operates approximately 1,100 apparel and accessories specialty stores throughout the United States. With so many brick-and-mortar locations, the ability to supplement in-store inventory with an e-commerce strategy geared toward a new generation of connected shoppers became crucial for continued growth.

Cato chose to partner with Celerant Technology, a leading mid-market retail technology provider, to help it create an e-commerce site that tied in existing inventory management systems, branding and service into a customer facing order management software in eight months.

The new website will support the growth of the brand and will offer the same collections as its brick-and-mortar stores, as well as additional sizes, colors and exclusive items.

“We are thrilled to enter the world of ecommerce,” says John Cato, Cato’s chairman, president and CEO “This significant milestone fully rounds out our services and offerings, along with our 1,100 Cato stores. Now our customers have the opportunity to access our fashions and accessories at any time from the comfort of their own devices.”

“When developing our software, we focus on all of our retailer’s needs,” said Ian Goldman, president and CEO of Celerant Technology. “From customer-facing functions to back-office reporting, we provide retailers with a complete real-time, all-in-one system. We are proud of our work with Cato — we worked closely, and truly partnered with them to design, build and implement a complete solution within an extraordinarily short timeframe. We look forward to watching their brand and sales grow exponentially.”

Cato’s holiday sales for the month were $100.1 million, a 3% decrease from sales of $103.3 million for the five weeks ended December 29, 2012. Same-store sales for the month decreased 4%.

"December same-store sales results were negatively impacted by bad weather in a number of our markets early in the month," said Cato. "Excluding the impact of this weather event, the sales environment remained difficult but same-store sales were in line with our year-to-date trend. We now expect that fourth quarter earnings per diluted share will be within the range of $0.11 to $0.15, versus our original guidance of $.17 to $.23 and $0.27 last year. The Company’s estimate for full year earnings per diluted share is now in the range of $1.84 to $1.88 vs. our most recent guidance of $1.90 to $1.96 and $2.11 last year. Reflected in both the fourth quarter and full year revised guidance is the effect of $0.08 in store fixture write-offs and store impairment charges. And, when comparing the fourth quarter and year to 2012, please note the prior year numbers include the positive impact of an additional week under the retail 52-53 week calendar."

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Amazon Marketplace Sellers enjoys record-setting year

BY CSA STAFF

Amazon announced a record-setting year for Marketplace Sellers, which sold more than a billion units worldwide, cumulatively worth tens of billions of dollars, in 2013.

Marketplace Sellers around the world also continued rapid adoption of Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), a service that Marketplace Sellers can choose to have Amazon ship their products directly to customers and offer Amazon Prime benefits, free shipping, simple exporting to customers around the world and easy returns for orders placed on Amazon. The number of active Marketplace Sellers using the FBA service grew more than 65% year-over-year worldwide.

On Cyber Monday, more than 13 million units were ordered worldwide from Marketplace Sellers on Amazon, growing the total units ordered by more than 50% year-over-year.

“It has been an incredible year for Marketplace Sellers including popular brands and businesses of all sizes selling on Amazon. Our customers have told us they appreciate the hundreds of millions of products listed by Marketplace Sellers that range from all types of apparel to a vast selection of electronics items,” said Peter Faricy, VP for Amazon Marketplace. “Our goal every day is to make selling on Amazon as easy as possible. Fulfillment by Amazon is a wonderful service as it gives all Marketplace Sellers the option of warehousing their inventory in our fulfillment center network. It has been a game changer for sellers because their items become eligible for Prime benefits, which drives their sales and benefits consumers with additional Prime selection.”

“Amazon gave us an opportunity to offer an incredible holiday deal on Cyber Monday and we hit it out of the park,” said Eli Silver Sakkal, president of Amazing Deals Online, an electronics retailer based in New Jersey. “We experienced an unprecedented 5,000 percent sales growth spike on an item we listed with an attractive holiday deal price. I know it sounds unbelievable, but it’s true! We sold more than $1,000,000 in product in a single day. Being a Marketplace Seller on Amazon has allowed us to benefit from the technical infrastructure they’ve built up over the years while reaching millions of loyal customers worldwide for a modest cost to us. We have enjoyed an 80% increase in units sold on Amazon this holiday season without having to invest a penny in our own infrastructure. Amazon by far has been our most successful sales channel this holiday selling season.”

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