FINANCE

Limited shines in January

BY Marianne Wilson

New York City — The nation’s apparel retailers reported mixed results for January as shoppers remain cautious about spending in the uncertain economy.

“It was as tough month as retailers battled holiday hangover, lack of incentive to shop and mild winter that killed outerwear clearance," said Ken Perkins, president of RetailMetrics Inc., in a Reuters report.

As the first month of the year, January accounts for only 20% November-January sales, and 7% of annual sales, according to RetailMetrics.

Limited Brands continued to outperform, reporting a 9% gain in same-store sales in January that was well above the 2.7% that analysts expected. The chain’s total sales climbed 2.6% to $774.5 million. Limited said it now expects fourth quarter earnings to be at the high end of its prior guidance.

Gap Inc. said its same-store sales fell 4%, which was better than estimates for a 5.1% decline. Total sales fell 1.2% to $833 million. Gap CEO Glenn Murphy said he was pleased by the company’s performance in a “clearance-based” month focused on unloading leftover holiday inventory.

“As we transition to a new year, our teams are focused on making the necessary steps to improve our business performance in 2012,” Murphy said.

In other same-store results for January:

  • Zumiez Inc. said its sales rose 10.8%, well above expectations.
  • The Buckle reported a 7.4%, just below estimates for 7.5%. Total sales grew 10.9% to $50.3 million.
  • Cato Corp.’s sales fell 6%, but the company issued slightly higher guidance for the coming quarter. CEO John Cato said in a statement that sales at the end of the month were hurt "by the timing of tax refunds," but he didn’t offer further explanation.
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OPERATIONS

Ann Inc. names new president for Ann Taylor division amid slumping sales

BY Staff Writer

New York City — Ann Inc. said that the president of its Ann Taylor brand, Christine Beauchamp, is leaving to pursue other opportunities. She will be replaced by Brian Lynch, who had been president of the Ann Taylor Factory and Loft Outlet divisions and led the website sales for those brands.

The news came as the chain cut its revenue prediction for the quarter that ended in January to a level below analyst expectations, citing slumping sales at its Ann Taylor stores.

The company said Thursday that it now expects revenue of $566 million for the November-January quarter, which makes up the key holiday selling period. In mid-November, it had predicted revenue of $580 million for its fiscal fourth quarter.

Online revenue and same-store sales rose 5% in the November-January period from the year before. However, the metric fell 11% at Ann Taylor stores. The measure rose 28% at Ann Taylor’s website and 6% in the brand’s factory stores.

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News

NRF: Consumers to show lots of spending love this Valentine’s Day

BY CSA STAFF

WASHINGTON — Consumers are set to put out all the stops this Valentine’s Day, with the average person shelling out $126.03, up 8.5% over last year, according to NRF’s 2012 Valentine’s Day Consumer Intentions and Actions survey, conducted by BIGinsight. Total spending is expected to reach $17.6 billion.

Consumers’ “better halves” will shell out the most on their partners, with the average person planning to spend $74.12 on their spouse or significant other, up from $68.98 last year. Additionally, consumers will spend and average of $25.25 on their children, parents or other family members and $6.92 on friends. And don’t forget pets: The average person will spend about $4.52 on their pets.

The survey also found the average male is expected to spend $168.74 on clothing, jewelry, greeting cards and more this year — nearly twice as much as women who are expected to spend an average of $85.76.

In addition to traditional gift ideas, those celebrating the holiday will also put some serious thought into the perfect gift. More than eight in 10 (18.9%) will buy jewelry, the highest percent in the survey’s history. Total spending on jewelry is expected to reach $4.1 billion, up from $3.5 billion last year.

Additionally, 50.5% all celebrants will buy candy, 36% will buy flowers and 35.6% will treat someone to a nice evening out.

Though discount stores are expected to see the most traffic (37.0%), one-third of shoppers (33.6%) will head to department stores, up from 30.5 percent last year. Nearly 19.3% will shop online for gifts this Valentine’s Day. Others will shop at specialty stores (20.2%), floral shop (17.8%), jewelry stores (10.6%) and specialty clothing stores (6.6%).

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