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Retailers make strong gains in August; Macy’s, Limited Brands and Gap Inc. top estimates

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Macy’s, Limited Brands and Gap Inc. all posted August same-store sales that topped analysts’ estimates as retailers across the board generally posted strong sales, boosted by back-to-school shopping and aggressive promotions. The strong showing comes shortly after the news that consumer confidence for August slumped to its lowest level of the year.

A group of 18 retailers ranging from Target to Macy’s to Costco Wholesale Corp. reported August sales on Thursday that rose 6% — the industry’s best performance since March — according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.

Same-store sales increased 9% at Gap Inc., beating projections for a 5.5% increase. At namesake Gap stores, same-store sales were up 9%. The metric rose 12% at Old Navy, and 8% at Banana Republic.

At Limited Brands, same-store sales rose 8%, almost twice the 4.2% that was projected. The biggest increase was at Limited’s Victoria’s Secret, where same-store sales increased 9%.

Macy’s reported a 5.1% increase in same-store sales, better than the 3.3% increase analysts had expected.

"Sales exceeded our expectations in August, and the strength was broad-based across merchandise categories, geographies and channels," said Macy’s chairman, president and CEO Terry Lundgren. "Our fall season is off to a healthy start."

At Nordstrom Inc., same-store sales jumped 21%, topping analysts’ estimates for an 11% increase. The chain’s performance was boosted by its annual anniversary sale event, which it moved into August this year.

The Buckle Inc. posted a 4.5% rise in same-store sales, better than the projected 0.3% drop.

The Wet Seal Inc. continued to struggle. The chain reported an 18.3% decline in same-store sales, when a 17% drop was expected. Wet Seal said in a statement the results were in line with its expectations and that since the start of August, the company has returned to "fast fashion merchandising and has included merchandising to a broader demographic."

Stage Stores Inc. reported a 6.5% increase in comparable-store sales rise of 6.5%, more than twice expectations for 3%.

"Healthy back-to-school selling, strength in our missy and other women’s categories and strong full-price selling helped produce our highest comparable-store sales increase for the month of August since 2004," said Stage Stores CEO Michael Glazer.

The Bon-Ton Stores reported a 2.2% increase in same-store sales.

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Costco, Target, Kohl’s and TJX beat estimates

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Discounters reported strong-than-expected sales for August, fueled by back-to-school shopping, promotions and cooler weather in the Northeast.

Costco Wholesale Corp.’s same-store sales in August rose 6%, beating the 4.5% rise analysts had projected.

Target Corp. reported a 4.2% increase in same-store sales, better than the 3.1% increase that analysts had expected.

"Sales were stronger in the second half of the month as guests responded to Target’s broad assortment and compelling value for their back-to-school and back-to-college shopping, " said Gregg Steinhafel, Target’s chairman, president and CEO.

The TJX Cos. also beat projections, with an 8% increase in same-store sales for August. "Once again, the strength of our performance was broad based," TJX Cos. CEO Carol Meyrowitz said. "Customer traffic drove the comp sales increase across our divisions in the U.S., Canada and Europe, which we believe is a great indicator that our value proposition continues to resonate with consumers."

At Kohl’s Corp., same-store sales increased 3.4% in August, easily beating Wall Street’s forecast. Company chairman, president and CEO Kevin Mansell said in a statement that Kohl’s August results were helped by better merchandise, improved inventory levels and its marketing strategies. The best performing categories for the four weeks ended Aug. 27 including footwear, men’s and children’s.

Ross Stores’ August revenue at stores open at least a year climbed 8 percent as shoppers looked for back-to-school bargains. The performance topped analysts’ estimates.

Fred’s Inc. saw its same-store sales fall 2.8% in August, but the company said sales picked up a bit at the end of the month because of back-to-school shopping. Analysts expected a larger 4.3% drop.

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Sears down on removal from S&P 500 New York

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Shares of Sears Holdings were under heavy selling pressure Thursday morning, sliding 7% to $53.38 on Standard & Poor’s. S&P plans to remove the chain from its S&P 500 Index because the chain’s public float has has been below the index’s 50% threshold for an extended period of time.

The Sears’ name, in one form or another, has been in the S&P 500 since it was created some 55 years ago. Sears will be removed from the index at the close of trading on Sept. 4. The retailer will be replaced by chemical maker LyondellBasell.

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