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Jobless claims drop in past month

BY CSA STAFF

Washington, D.C. — Fewer Americans filed claims for unemployment insurance payments over the past month, indicating some positive movement in the job market.

According to the latest labor department figures, the number of applications for jobless benefits averaged 431,000 a week over the month ended Nov. 27, the lowest level since August 2008. Claims increased by 26,000 last week, more than forecast, to 436,000, after reaching a two-year low.

“Lower lows and lower highs define a downward trend, and that’s what seems finally to be emerging,” according to Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics LLC in Valhalla, N.Y. “If it continues, we should expect to see better payroll numbers over the next few months.”

After slowing the pace of firings in November, companies may be on the cusp of ramping up the hiring necessary to further boost consumer spending, according to a Bloomberg report.

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Macy’s, J.C. Penney and Kohl’s beat November forecasts

BY CSA STAFF

New York City — Department store retailers enjoyed a strong November, with nearly all the leading chains topping analysts projections.

Macy’s reported Thursday that its same-store sales rose 6.1% in November, boosted by a strong Black Friday weekend. The company raised its earnings guidance.

Macy’s said its sales were boosted by a strong Black Friday weekend, and strong online sales. Online sales (macys.com and bloomingdales.com combined) were up 31.8% in November, and 28.9% in 2010 year-to-date, compared with the same periods in 2009. (Online sales are included in the same-store sales calculation for Macy’s.)

“We are clearly seeing the results of our omnichannel strategies to integrate stores and online so that we can serve customers no matter how they prefer to shop,” said Terry J. Lundgren, chairman, president CEO of Macy’s. “On Black Friday alone, more than 4.5 million shoppers visited macys.com and bloomingdales.com, with a similarly high level of record traffic on Cyber Monday (Nov. 29).

J.C. Penney Co. said that its November same-store sales rose 9.2%. Analysts, on average, had expected same-store sales to rise 3.1%, according to Thomson Reuters.

J.C. Penney said all divisions and regions experienced comparable-store sales growth in November, with shoes and men’s apparel reporting the best results over last year. Geographically, the best performing regions were the central and southwest regions.

At Kohl’s, same-store sales rose 6.1% in November, beating estimates forecasts of a 2.8% increase. Year-to-date, same-store sales rose 4.7%, while total sales rose nearly 8% to $14.37 billion.

The Southeast and South-Central regions outperformed the company, Kohl’s said, and the chain’s footwear business once again reported the strongest comparable store sales for the month.

In other November same-store sales results:

* Saks reported a 5.3% gain, falling far short of analysts’ expectations for a 9.4% increase.
* Bon-Ton Stores’ reported a 2.9% increase; and
* At Dillard’s, sales were up 8%, topping expectations.

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Discounters and warehouse clubs beat expectations in November

BY CSA STAFF

New York City — The nation’s discount retailers and warehouse club operators posted strong sales in November, beating analysts’ expectations. The results were fueled by promotions and cold weather in some parts of the country, as well as strong Black Friday traffic.

Target Corp. said Thursday more shoppers came to its stores in November and spent more than a year earlier, helping to fuel a 5.5% rise in same-store sales during the month. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters, on average, expected a 3.7% gain.

Total sales for the four weeks ended Nov. 27 rose 6% to $6 billion. So far this year, Target’s same-store sales increased 2.4%. Total revenue rose 4% to $51.52 billion.

CEO Gregg Steinhafel said customers were responding to the company’s holiday merchandise and discounts, including a 5% discount it is offering all users of its Target cards.

Costco said Thursday that its November same-store sales surged 9%, helped by the weaker dollar and higher gas prices, better than 6.2% analysts had forecast. Sales were up 7% in its U.S. stores and 13% in its international stores.

Excluding the effect of higher gas prices and the weaker dollar, revenue in stores open at least a year rose 6%.

Food, housewares, jewelry and clothing sold well, electronics less so. Revenue from TVs fell even as Costco sold more TVs, because prices have fallen.

At BJ’s Wholesale Club, November same-store sales were up 5%, with both food and general merchandise sales climbing. Its results topped the 3.9% rise that analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected.

The warehouse club operator said its results included 1.2% from gasoline sales. Removing gas sales, the metric rose 3.8%. BJ’s said all major regions reported revenue increases at clubs open at least a year, with the strongest gains in the Southeast. Food sales increased about 4% in November, with general merchandise sales up about 3%.

TJX Cos. said Thursday its November same-store sales rose by 3%. Wall Street analysts had expected the company’s same-store sales to increase by 2.9%,

Ross Stores reported a 6% same-stores gain in November.

Michael Balmuth, CEO, commented, "November sales were better than expected as we benefited from a continued focus on value by consumers that drove healthy traffic to our stores. Merchandise and geographic trends were relatively broad-based. Juniors and Shoes were the strongest merchandise categories, while Florida and Texas were the top performing markets."

Duckwall-Alco Stores said Thursday that November revenue at its stores open at least a year rose 5.8%, buoyed by strong sales of clothing and electronics.

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