January Comp Sales Reflect Holiday Hangover

Retail SalesNew York—Normally a weaker month for sales anyway, January turned out to be a mixed bag for retailers.

Following of the heels of an all-important December, January accounts for about 20% of the November to January total sales, and 7% of annual sales, according to RetailMetrics.

“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., a research firm.

In its tally of 20 retailers who had reported January sales results today, Thomson Reuters said about 60% beat analyst estimates and 40% missed them. Overall, comparable store sales actually grew 4.2%, beating analysts’ estimate for only a 2% increase, yet still below the 4.8% increase recorded last year.

Among those beating estimates were Target, Costco, Saks, Limited Brands, Zumiez. Gap Inc. posted a decline but less than expected. Missing comparable store sales estimates were Macy’s Inc., Wet Seal and Nordstrom.

Warmer Weather Hurt Sales of Cold Weather Merchandise?

In its report for January, the International Council of Shopping Center (ICSC) reported a 4.8% increase, better than the 3 percent gain that ICSC had expected.

“The take away is that the underlying demand is still there, but business continues to be uneven,” said Michael P. Niemira, ICSC’s chief economist. “It was definitely a divided picture.”

Traditionally the month for clearances, especially in winter and cold weather merchandise, January sales may have been tempered by warmer-than-usual temperatures in many regions.

“Need-based purchases of cold weather apparel or snow removal items were difficult to find in January,” said Scott Bernhardt, chief operating officer of Planalytics, which tracks weather data for businesses.

The January figures don’t include monthly sales reports from Walmart, JCPenney and several teen retail chains.

Among the stores reporting today their January comparable store sales or fourth quarter earnings previews were:

●Macy’s Inc. reported its January comparable store sales rose 2.4% but fell short of analysts’ average projection for a 3.5% increase. Total sales rose 2% to $1.34 billion from $1.31 billion in the same period last year.

“Sales in January — the smallest-volume month of the year — were weaker than anticipated. Nonetheless, January was the 26th consecutive month of year-over-year same-store sales growth for our company,” said Terry J. Lundgren, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Macy’s, Inc.

A continued bright spot has been the company’s online sales, which include macys.com and bloomingdales.com, rose 38.7% in January. Online sales positively affected the company’s comparable store sales by 1.7 percentage points in the fourth quarter and 1.5 percentage points in fiscal 2011. Online sales are included in the same-store sales calculation for Macy’s, Inc.

●Kohl’s reported a 0.6% increase in its January comparable store sales in line with retail analysts’ expectations. Total sales increased 2.4% in January, to $844 million, and 2.2% for the year, to $18.8 billion. For the full year, comparable store sales rose 0.5%.

“I am pleased to report that we achieved our goal of $1 billion in e-commerce revenues in fiscal 2011,” Kevin Mansell, the store’s chairman, president/ceo. “The e-commerce business was a key contributor to our fiscal 2011 sales performance and we plan to build on its momentum in 2012. Additionally, strong expense management during the quarter contributed to better-than-expected profitability.”

As a result the company raises its earnings forecast for the fourth quarter to $1.79 to $1.80 a share and increased its fiscal 2011 guidance to $4.29 to $4.30 a share.

●Dillard’s, Inc. said its comparable store sales for January were flat. Total merchandise sales declined 1% to $363.55 million from $366.42 million last year.

Total sales for the 13 weeks ended January 28 were up 2% to $1.95 billion compared to $1.91 billion last year. Comparable store sales increased 3% during the 13-week period.

●Nordstrom Inc. said its January comparable store sales rose 5% bolstered by sales of handbags and cosmetics. Nonetheless, the increase narrowly missed analysts’ average estimate expecting a 5.3% increase. Total sales rose 13.2% to $688 million.

While handbags and cosmetics were strong performers, sales were strongest in the South andMidwest, particularly during the last week of the month.

For its fiscal year, which ended in late January, comparable store sales climbed 7.2%. Net revenue climbed 12.7% to $10.5 billion.

●Saks Inc.’s January comparable store sales surged past analysts forecasts to 10.5% ahead of analysts’ average estimate of 6.2%. Total sales rose 7.2% to $175.6 million from $163.8 million.

Best selling categories included women’s apparel, handbags and men’s accessories. The company’s online business, Saks Direct, also did well during January.

Fourth quarter comparable store sales rose 7.7%. Total quarterly sales rose 6.4% to $905.1 million.

●Neiman Marcus Inc. reported that its second quarter sales over the holidays increased 9.2% helped by strong sales in women’s footwear, designer handbags, beauty and men’s. Total revenue for the second quarter, which ended Jan. 28, was $1.28 billion, up form $1.17 billion a year earlier.

Strongest regions in sales were the West, Texasand the Southeast, the company said.

Comparable store sales during the quarter rose 9%, including 7.8% at its Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman stores, and 13.5% at Neiman Marcus Direct, which includes online and catalog sales. Top selling merchandise categories in the Direct division women’s apparel and shoes, handbags, beauty and men’s.

●Bon-Ton Stores posted a 3.5% decrease in its January comparable store sales. Total sales fell 3.2% to $174.4 million compared with the same period last year.

Comparable store sales for the fourth quarter dropped 2.6%, and total sales dropped 2.7% to $983.2 million.

The company attributed most of the declines due to a drop in sales of cold weather merchandise because of mostly milder winter temperatures. The company’s seven pilot stores in Pennsylvania, which have offered remodeled spaces and a different mix of merchandise, outperformed the rest of the company.

Tony Buccina, vice chairman and president of merchandising, said that February sales would liked be down, too, due to a shift of its “major sales event” Community Days from its traditional February dates to April 27 and 28.

●Stage Stores reported that its total sales for January were up 2.5% to $74 million from $72 million in the prior year. Comparable store sales decreased 0.1%.

For the fourth quarter, the company reported that total sales grew 3.2% to $468 million. Comparable store sales during the quarter increased 1.3%.

“Sales in January and the fourth quarter were in line with expectations,” said Any Hall, president/ceo. “However, as we discussed in the December sales release, our gross margin was negatively impacted by the promotional business environment. As a result, we now expect earnings for the full year to be in the range of $0.92 to $0.93 a share, versus our previous guidance range of $1.02 to $1.08 per share.”

Stage Stores also announced that its Rich Maloney, chief merchandising officer, has resigned to pursue other interests. Maloney joined the company in October 2008 and served as chief merchandising officer since February 2010.

The company has begun a search for his replacement.

●Target’s January comparable store sales rose 4.3% easily topping analysts’ average estimate expecting a 2.1% increase. Total revenue rose 5.1% to $4.61 billion.

“January sales were near the high end of our expected low to mid single-digit range, reflecting strong performance in both discretionary and non-discretionary categories,” Gregg Steinhafel, president/ceo, said.

The company said sales were strong across all regions with best performing merchandise categories including footwear, health care products and boys’ and girls’ clothing. Weaker categories included electronics and books.

●Gap Inc. reported that its total comparable store sales fell 4% in January, but that was better than analysts’ average estimate for a 4.9% decline. Net revenue fell just 1% to $833 million.
By division, Gap North American posted a 5% drop in comparable store sales and Old Navy posted a 6% decline. But Banana Republic had a better month with comparable store sales rising 6%. International sales had a 10% decline in comparable store sales.

“January was largely clearance-based, and we’re pleased we successfully cleared holiday inventory,” said Glenn Murphy, chairman and chief executive officer. “As we transition to a new year, our teams are focused on making the necessary steps to improve our business performance in 2012.”

In addition, the company reported that net sales for the fourth quarter, which ended January 28, decreased 2% to $4.28 billion compared with $4.36 billion last year. Comparable store sales for the fourth quarter were down 4% compared with a 1% increase in the fourth quarter last year.

●Limited Brands’ January comparable store sales increased 9% breezing past analysts

average estimate for a 2.7% increase. Net sales were $774.5 million, up from $772.6 million last year.

For its fourth quarter, the company reported a comparable store sales increase of 7% for quarter ended January 28. Net sales were $3.515 billion for the quarter, compared to sales of $3.456 billion last year.

After boosting its earnings view for its fourth quarter at the beginning of January, the company said today it expects to report an adjusted profit at the high end of its previous guidance of $1.42 to $1.46 a share.

●Cato Corp. said its January comparable store sales were slid down 6%. Total sales were down 4% to $50.5 million.

For its fourth quarter ended Jan. 29, total sales were down 1% to $221.5 million, from $224.0 million for the fourth quarter 2011. For the quarter, comparable store sales decreased 4%.

“January same-store sales results were in line with our recent trend with the exception of the last week of the month, which was negatively impacted by the timing of tax refunds,” said John Cato, chairman, president/ceo.

The company said it now expects per share earnings for the fourth quarter to be near the middle of its original prediction of 32 cents to 35 cents.

●Abercrombie & Fitch reported today its fourth quarter sales were up 16% to $1.329 billion from $1.149 billion in the same period a year ago.

But the teen-oriented retailer its comparable store sales for the quarter, which ended Jan. 28, were flat to last year and below expectations, primarily due to lower than expected sales in U.S. stores.

Total U.S.sales, including direct-to-consumer sales, increased 4% to $962.2 million. In contrast, its international sales, including direct-to-consumer sales, were up by 62% to $366.6 million. Total company direct-to-consumer sales, including shipping and handling, increased 41% to $212.3 million.

“Our sales for the quarter were below expectations in a highly promotional environment, and our results were further affected by all-time high cotton costs,” said Mike Jeffries, chairman/ceo. “We remain cautious on near-term sales trends; however, we are confident that we are on track with our assortment and our long-term strategy, and hope to see improvement as 2012 progresses.”

●Ann Inc. reported today that its fourth quarter results were below expectations due in part to weakness at its Ann Taylor division.

For the fourth quarter, total sales came were $566 million, missing its November estimate of about $580 million, which had been slightly above analysts’ estimates.

Total comparable sales rose 5%, made up of a 1% decline at Ann Taylor and an 11% rise at Loft. At Ann Taylor, sales dropped 11% in store, partially offset by a 28% gain in the e-commerce group and 6% increase at factory outlet stores.

The company expects gross margin will be about 49%, reflecting a significantly higher-than-anticipated promotional period in the Ann Taylor.

Meanwhile, the company said that Brian Lynch, the former president of its outlets, will become brand president of Ann Taylor replacing Christine Beauchamp has left the company to pursue other opportunities.

●Wet Seal Inc. reported that its January comparable store sales slid 13%, worse than the 3% decline that analysts’ average estimate expected. Total sales fell 8.2% to $32.4 million.

The company posted declines in both divisions: sales fell 8.1% at its Wet Seal stores and 8.7% at Arden B.

Fourth quarter comparable store sales 5.5%, while total revenue slipped 1.4% to $163.2 million.

“The fourth quarter ended with January sales that did not meet our expectations,” Susan McGalla, ceo. “Our updated fourth-quarter earnings guidance reflects an improvement in merchandise margin over the prior-year quarter, offset by effects of the lower comparable-store sales.”

●The Buckle Inc. said comparable store sales in January rose 7.4% on strong sales of jeans, footwear and other casual apparel. Analysts’ average estimate expected an increase of 7.3%.

Total revenue rose 10.9% to $60.3 million from $54.4 million. Denim and footwear were both strong sellers for men and women, the company said.

For the fiscal fourth quarter that ended Jan. 28, comparable store sales rose 8% while total revenue increased 11.2% to $337.1 million.

●Zumiez Inc. posted a 10.8% increase in its January comparable store sales, more than double the 4.3% predicted by analysts’ average estimate. Total sales climbed 19% $31.8 million, from $26.7 million last year.

The skate and accessories chain said its fourth quarter comparable store sales were up 9.7% on top of 13.0% in the prior year quarter.

●Ross Stores posted a 5% increase in January comparable store sales. Total sales increased 10 percent to $483 million.

For its fourth quarter, comparable store sales increased 7%, while total sales for the quarter were up 12% at $2.398 billion, compared to $2.145 billion a year ago.

“Sales for both January and the fourth quarter of fiscal 2011 were well ahead of our expectations as our wide assortments of compelling name-brand bargains continue to appeal to today’s value-focused consumers,” said Michael Balmuth, vice chairman/ceo.

●Stein Mart posted a 3.9% decrease in its January comparable store sales, while total sales declined 4.3% to $60.1 million from $62.8 million last year.

For the fourth quarter, its comparable store sales were down 2.2% on top of a decline of 1.2% in the same quarter last year. Total sales declined 2.5% to $328.2 million from $336.7 million in the previous year.

Stein Mart noted that in January, women’s casual sportswear and accessories, and men’s furnishings had the strongest sales performance, while gifts, men’s sportswear, women’s and social dresses were weaker.

●TJX, which operated off-price retailers T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, and HomeGoods, said comparable store sales rose 7% in January. Total sales climbed to $1.4 billion from $1.3 billion in the prior-year period.

“Every division of the company delivered strong sales results in the month,” Carol Meyrowitz, ceo. “We believe that our tremendous value proposition on great brands and fashions continued to drive large increases in customer traffic. … With lean inventories that are in excellent shape, we are extremely well-positioned to flow fresh, terrific spring product to our stores.”

●Costco reported that its comparable store sales, excluding fuel, were up 8% in January, better than analysts’ average estimate for a 6.1% increase. Total sales rose 11% to $7 billion.

Comparable store sales at its international division were up came in at 9%, excluding fuel and currency exchange rates. Costco reported mid- or high-single-digit sales increases in the food and sundries, hardlines, softlines, and fresh food categories. The Midwest,Texas, South, and Northeast were the strongest regions.

 

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