FINANCE

Urban Outfitters reports holiday sales

BY Marianne Wilson

Philadelphia — Urban Outfitters Inc. said Thursday its same-stores sales for the holiday season rose 9%, including its direct-to-consumer business. Excluding that unit, same-store sales fell 1%.

Total company net sales for November and December increased 15% to $666 million.

Among Urban Outfitters’ brands, comparable sales increased 33% at Free People, 10% at Urban Outfitters and 5% at Anthropologie. Direct-to-consumer net sales increased by 38% for the period and wholesale segment net sales increased 21%.

"We are pleased to announce a 15% increase in our Holiday sales, driven by strength in all brands,” CEO Richard A. Hayne said in a statement. “I am proud of the teams’ execution as they delivered better product with more disciplined inventory management leading to improvement in regular price sales.”

During the 11 months prior to Dec. 31, when the company opened a total of 46 new stores, total net sales increased to $2.6 billion, or 12%, year-over-year.

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OPERATIONS

Wal-Mart to join Arkansas healthcare initiative

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Little Rock, Ark. — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Arkansas governor Mike Beebe announced Thursday that Wal-Mart will join an Arkansas program intended to change the way that private insurers and Medicaid pay for services. Wal-Mart’s Arkansas employees’ insurance plans, which cover about 57,000 workers, will become a part of the statewide program.

The retailer has committed $670,000 toward a tracking system to measure the program’s success as well as distribute information about the reforms.

Wal-Mart will also serve on an employer advisory council for the state.

The Arkansas Payment Improvement Initiative moves away from a fee-for-service model to one where insurers pay for "episodes" of care rather than each individual treatment.

"Governor Beebe is leading a first-of-a-kind payment-reform effort in Arkansas that health experts elsewhere are following closely. We respect the work being done in Arkansas, and we are excited about the opportunity to offer real support to such a meaningful project in our home state," said Sally Welborn, Wal-Mart’s SVP benefits.

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News

Consumer confidence waned last week

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Washington, D.C. — The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell to minus 34.4 in the seven days ended Jan. 6 from minus 31.8 the prior period, the biggest one-week drop since August. Jobless claims increased by 4,000 to 371,000 in the week ended Jan. 5, according to Labor Department figures.

“Consumers are coming to the realization that their take- home pay is going to get smaller,” said Richard Yamarone, a senior economist at Bloomberg LP in New York. “That will translate into weaker spending. I expect the economy will spin its wheels for many months until the jobs picture and associated incomes improve.”

The Bloomberg index indicated those with less disposable income showed the biggest declines in confidence last week. Americans making between $25,000 and $39,999 were the most pessimistic in three months, and confidence among those earning $15,000 to $24,999 a year fell by the most in two months.

Consumers on the other end of the income scale remained more confident. The figures showed comfort among those earning $50,000 or more annually climbed to the highest level since November 2007. Sentiment among those making $100,000 or more was the highest since October 2010.

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