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Retail sales solid in September

BY Katherine Boccaccio

New York City — Despite ongoing concerns about the economy, retailers fared surprisingly well in September, helped by the tail end of back-to-school shopping and cooler temperatures.

Overall, Thomson Reuters, which tracks same-store sales for a group of 23 national chains, said the group was expected to post a 4.6% increase in same-store sales for September. Retailers surpassed expectations, with a 5.1% rise led by strong performances from Target, Limited Brands, Zumiez and Costco Wholesale, among others. Walgreens, however, disappointed with a 3.1% rise in same-store sales, missing analysts’ expectations.

Still, the U.S. consumer in September "showed resilience in spite of all the troubling economic news," Michael McNamara, VP research and analysis for MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, told Reuters.

September is particularly important in the apparel category, as it picks up the final portion of the back-to-school shopping period – the second-largest retail spending season behind the holiday period of November and December.

In the apparel sector, Zumiez shone with a 10.1% increase in same-store sales in September, beating Wall Street estimates of a 3.2% rise and raising its third-quarter outlook. Gap, however, reported a 4% dip in September same-store sales, on flat revenue of $1.35 billion. Results were in line with Wall Street expectations, but the retailer has pledged to improve. “While there were some bright spots across our brands and business units, we’re clear and focused on the steps necessary to improve our business performance going forward,” said Glenn Murphy, chairman and CEO of Gap.

Limited Brands turned in a strong performance in September, with same-store sales up 11% on the strength of its Victoria’s Secret and Bath and Body Works brands. Results solidly beat Wall Street’s expected 4.6% rise.

In other apparel same-store results for September:

  • The Buckle outdid estimates, with a 10.3% increase. Wall Street expected a 3.8% rise.
  • Wet Seal same-store sales dipped .3%, widely missing analysts’ expected 3.8% rise.
  • Cato September same-store sales dropped 3%.

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JCPenney last in race with Macy’s, Kohl’s

BY CSA STAFF

MENOMONEE FALLS, Wis. PLANO, Texas and CINCINNATI – While Kohl’s and Macy’s posted September sales growth, JCPenney had to scale its outlook back after a weaker than expected month.

Kohl’s reported that sales for September increased 5.8% and comparable-store sales increased 4.1% over the same period last year.

Kevin Mansell, Kohl’s chairman, president and chief executive officer, commented, “We are pleased to report significant improvement in our September sales results. As expected, the Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony launches – the largest launches in our history – and the opening of 31 new stores, generated excitement which resulted in improved customer traffic.”

Kohl’s opened 31 new stores in fiscal September and now operates 1,127 stores in 49 states, compared to 1,089 stores at the same time last year.

Because of the expected impact of lease accounting through the remainder of fiscal 2011, Kohl’s has lowered it third quarter earnings guidance to a range of 73 cents to 79 cents per diluted share from its previous guidance of 76 cents to 82 cents per diluted share. Fiscal 2011 earnings are now expected to be $4.34 to $4.49 per diluted share versus the previous guidance of $4.45 to $4.60 per diluted share.

Macy’s reported a September sales increase of 5.3% and a same-store sales increase of 4.9%.

"We continued to see a strong sales trend in September at both Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s. Our sales performed well both in stores and online. This underscores that our business remains on track, despite the persistently negative macroeconomic news," said Terry Lundgren, chairman, president and CEO of Macy’s Inc. "Our customers are responding to fashion and uniqueness in the assortment at Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s. We are feeling quite confident that we will continue to gain market share as we head toward the holiday selling season."

Macy’s said it currently expects the increase in its third quarter same-store sales to be on the high end of previously provided guidance of 4% to 4.5%, and reiterated expectations for fourth quarter same-store sales to be in the range of 4% to 4.5%.

JCPenney reported that total sales for September were down 3.6% and comparable-store sales were down 0.6%. The company posted a 5.1% comps increase for the September 2010 period.

Sales were softer than the company expected, although JCPenney said that children’s apparel and women’s accessories performed well.

Because of weaker than expected sales in the first two months of the quarter, JCPenney said it now expects comparable-store sales for the third quarter to be flat and earnings per share to be in the range of 10 cents to 15 cents.

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Christopher & Banks loss widens in Q2, to close 17 stores

BY Staff Writer

Minneapolis — Christopher & Banks Corp. reported Thursday a net loss of $13 million for the quarter ended Aug. 27, compared with a loss of $2.5 million in the year-ago period.

Sales dropped to $96.2 million from $101.3 million, and same-store sales declined 8% during the quarter.

For the second half of fiscal 2012, the retailer said it plans to open approximately eight new stores and close approximately 17 existing stores.

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