August Comp Sales Better than Expected

Lady Gaga made an appearance shopping in New York City for back to school.

New York–Nearly all U.S. retailers posted better-than-expected sales gains in August at comparable store sales as parents and students ratcheted up their back-to-school purchases, setting the stage for a strong third quarter.

August comparable store sales rose 3.6% at retailers tracked by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S, trumping forecasts for a 2% rise. (The results exclude teen retailer Zumiez Inc, which reports numbers later Thursday.)

“It’s a much stronger back-to-school season than even the most optimistic analyst could have forecast,” said Joel Bines, managing director of Alix Partners’ retail practice.

The sales trend will give retailers confidence about the consumer mindset going into the holidays, Bines said.

“They will be cautious and have planned promotions but can have more confidence about not needing unplanned promotions,” he said.

Back-to-school is the second-biggest selling season for retailers in the United States, after the winter holidays.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Commerce Department said consumer spending in the second quarter was revised up a notch but was still below the first quarter’s pace. Consumer spending accounts for about 70% of U.S. economic activity.

Retail shares were modestly higher Thursday morning, with Buckle Inc. and Gap Inc. among the biggest gainers.

Gap’s 9% rise in same-store sales topped analysts’ forecast for a 5.4% increase. The results were driven by strong back-to-school sales, particularly at its Old Navy chain, where North American same-store sales jumped 12%.

Teen retailer Wet Seal Inc. was the only company to miss sales estimates.

A strong August at TJX Cos Inc has the off-price retailer now expecting third quarter earnings per share near the high end of its estimated range of 56 cents to 59 cents.

Nordstrom Inc got a big boost from the timing of its Anniversary Sale. Eight days of the sale, which offered discounts on fall merchandise, fell in August this year versus just one day in August of 2011. Same-store sales rose 21%, blowing past analysts’ expectations for an 11.1% rise.

At Target Corp., sales were stronger in the second half of the month as shoppers responded to “compelling value for their back-to-school and back-to-college shopping,” said Chairman and Chief Executive Gregg Steinhafel. Same-store sales were strongest in food, followed by health and beauty products.

Limited Brands Inc., which owns the Victoria’s Secret, Pink and Bath & Body Works chains, saw comparable store sales rise 8%, well above analysts’ average view of 4.2%.

Although these figures sound very promising, it’s important to keep in mind that only about 13% of major retailers still report monthly sales figures. Many majors, including Walmart, JCPenney, Dillard’s, and Sears, no longer release monthly sales.

Here are some of the retailers reporting their July sales, and in some cases, their second quarter sales totals:

●Macy’s Inc. continued to increase its comparable store sales in August, as the department store reported a 5.1% gain compared to last year. Macy’s reported total sales of more than $1.8 billion for the four weeks ended Aug. 25, a 5.7% increase compared to $1.7 billion in sales in the same period a year ago.

“Sales exceeded our expectations in August, and the strength was broad-based across merchandise categories, geographies and channels,” CEO Terry Lundgren said.

Macy’s beat the consensus estimate of a 3.3% comparable store sales increase.

Lundgren said he was particularly pleased with back-to-school results in Millennial customer categories and the retailer’s improved performance in women’s apparel.

Year-to-date sales at Macy’s totaled more than $14 billion, up 3.9 percent from the year-ago period. On a same-store basis, year-to-date sales are up 3.8 percent.

●Kohl’s Corp. reported today that for the four-week month ended August 25, total sales increased 5.3 percent and comparable store sales increased 3.4% over the four-week month ended August 27, 2011. Year to date, total sales increased 1.1% and comparable store sales decreased 0.6%.

Kevin Mansell, Kohl’s chairman, president and chief executive officer, commented, “Our August sales reflect improvement in our merchandise content, inventory levels and marketing strategies. All regions and lines of business reported higher sales for the month. Best performing businesses were footwear, men’s and children’s.”

●Nordstrom Inc. said total that its revenue in stores open at least one year leaped 21% in August, helped by the timing of an anniversary sales event.

The results beat the average prediction by analysts, who expected the department store chain’s revenue metric rise 11.1%, according to Thomson Reuters. Results were boosted because the company’s biggest sale of the year, a 17-day event, started a week later this year than last year. That pushed some of the promotions into August.

For the combined July and August period, revenue in stores open at least one year rose 8.4%.

In the four weeks ended Aug. 25, revenue rose 25 percent to $866 million from $691 million.

Year-to-date, revenue in stores open at least one year rose 8 percent, and total revenue rose 12 percent to $6.31 billion.

● Bon-Ton Stores says its August revenue at stores open at least a year climbed 2.2% as it tightly controlled how much merchandise it kept in stores.

The company said today that its strongest categories included ladies sportswear and children’s merchandise, shoes, home goods and fine jewelry. Online sales rose by a double-digit percentage. For the four weeks ended Aug. 25, total revenue gained 2.1% to $180.8 million. Year-to-date revenue at stores open at least a year dipped 0.3%. Total revenue slipped less than 1% to $1.42 billion.

●Stage Stores Inc. reported that total sales for the four week August period ended August 25, increased 9.6% to $124 million from $113 million in the prior year four week August period ended August 27, 2011. Comparable store sales for the August period increased 6.5%.

The company noted that the comparable store sales increase for August was broad based, with footwear, home & gifts, misses sportswear, petites and plus sizes leading the way with gains that exceeded the company average. Geographically, the South Central, Mid Atlantic, Southwest and Northeast regions all outperformed.

“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 Chief Executive Michael Glazer.

“We feel good about our merchandise assortments, inventory levels and positive momentum heading into the important fall season,” Glazer said.

●Target says revenue at stores open at least a year rose 4.2% in August as families began their back-to-school shopping. The increase was greater than analysts’ expected. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected 3.1% growth.

Total sales for the four weeks ended Aug. 25 rose 4.7% to $5.54 billion. Year-to-date revenue in stores open at least one year rose 4.2% as well. Total revenue rose 4.8% to $38.5 billion.

The mass merchant expects revenue at comparable stores will rise in the low single-digit percentage range in September.

●Gap Inc. today reported that its August 2012 net sales increased 9% compared with last year. Net sales for the four-week period ended August 25 were $1.20 billion compared with net sales of $1.10 billion for the four-week period ended August 27, 2011. The company’s comparable sales for August 2012 were up 9% compared with a 6% decrease for August 2011.

“Our August results underscore our focus to deliver trend-right product supported by great store execution,” said Glenn Murphy, chairman and CEO of Gap Inc. “In addition, we drove strong back-to-school sales, particularly at Old Navy.”

Comparable sales for August 2012 were as follows: Gap North America: positive 9% versus negative 8% last year; Banana Republic North America: positive 8% versus negative 4% last year ; Old Navy North America: positive 12% versus negative 4% last year; International: negative 2% versus negative 9% last year

Year-to-date net sales were $8.26 billion for the 30 weeks ended August 25; an increase of 6% compared with net sales of $7.78 billion for the 30 weeks ended August 27, 2011. The company’s year-to-date comparable sales increased 4% compared with a 3% last year.

●Limited Brands reported comparable store sales rose 8%, almost twice the 4.2% that was projected and continued a streak of outdistancing expectations. The retailer was helped by strong August sales the Victoria’s Secret chain.

●Cato Corp reported that comparable store sales were flat in August.

Total revenue rose 2% over the year, to $62.1 million from $60.6 million. Cato added a net of 13 stores in that period, bringing its total to 1,298.

CEO John Cato said the results were “within our range of expectations,” and made a muted prediction for the future. He said he was cautious about the rest of the year, “given the continuing economic and political situation.” For the year so far, sales at stores open at least a year are down 2%.

Cato runs its namesake stores as well as Verona and It’s Fashion, with a focus on women and girls.

●The Buckle said today that a key revenue measurement rose 4.5% in August as teens snapped up back-to-school outfits. Analysts expected a drop of 0.3%, according to Thomson Reuters. Total revenue in the four weeks that ended Aug. 25 rose 5.7% to $100.8 million from $95.3 million for the similar period last year.

Year-to-date, revenue in stores open at least one year rose 3.8 percent and total revenue rose 5.9 percent to $580 million.

●Struggling Wet Seal Inc. said today that its revenue in stores open at least one year fell 18.3% in August as it revamped its clothing offerings. The metric is a key measure of a retailer’s health, because it excludes sales at stores that opened or closed during the year.

The company said it was trying to make its merchandise attractive to a broader range of consumers while pricing clothes to appeal to adolescent shoppers, its main customers.

Total revenue for the four weeks through Aug. 25 fell 15.9% to $48.8 million. Revenue from Wet Seal stores fell 15.8% to $43.6 million and revenue from Arden B stores fell 17% to $5.2 million.

Wet Seal, which has about 550 stores, has struggled to find the right product lineup to lure young women. It said in May that it planned to close Arden B stores and open fewer Wet Seal stores to control costs as sales deteriorate.

In July, Wet Seal fired CEO Susan McGill without naming a replacement, citing the company’s financial performance. The company also adopted a shareholder rights plan and hired financial advisers after a shareholder Wet Seal to sell itself.

●Zumiez, Inc. is expected to report its second quarter results after the market closes. Quarterly earnings are expected to increase to 13 cents a share from 8 cents a share in the same quarter a year earlier. Analysts’ estimate revenues of $135.52 million, higher than $112.21 million recorded a year ago.

●Ross Stores’ August revenue at stores open at least a year climbed 8% as shoppers looked for back-to-school bargains. The performance topped analysts’ estimates for a 5.8% rise.

The discount store operator’s stock raised a penny to $69.99 in morning trading. For the four weeks ended Aug. 25, total revenue gained 13% to $747 million.

Year-to-date revenue at stores open at least a year rose 8%, while total revenue climbed 13 percent to $5.45 billion.

Ross Stores Inc. still expects September revenue at stores open at least a year to rise 2 to 3%. It anticipates a 3% to 4% increase for October. The company will report its September sales results on Oct. 4.

●Stein Mart Inc. said its revenue at stores open at least a year rose 5.6%, well above the 1.5% analysts on average expected. The latter figure is considered a key measure of a retailer’s financial performance as it strips away the impact of recently opened or closed stores. Total revenue for August rose 6.9% to $79 million.

The gains came without repeating a 12-hour sales promotion that the store held in August 2011. “”Our strong sales were for regular priced merchandise, including early receipts for fall, as well as clearance selling,” Interim CEO Jay Stein said in a statement.

The company said the increase was driven by sales of linens, women’s career and casual clothing. Gifts, dresses and men’s clothing underperformed. Sales increased across all states, with California stores delivering a strong performance. Results from stores in Florida were relatively weaker.

●TJX Companies, which operates TJ Maxx, Marshalls and Home Goods stores, says it now expects earnings per share in its fiscal third quarter to be on the higher range of its previous guidance of 56 cents to 59 cents per share.

For the four-week period ended Aug. 25, the company said total sales rose 10% to $1.9 billion. Sales at stores open at least a year rose 8% which was higher than the 6.3% analysts on average expected. CEO Carol Markowitz said the sales increase in the U.S., Canada and Europe was driven by strong customer traffic, which she said shows that the company’s affordable prices resonate with customers.

●Costco Wholesale Corp.’s revenue from stores open at least a year climbed 6%, beating Wall Street’s expectations for the warehouse-club retailer.

Analysts’ consensus anticipated a 4.5% rise in the figure. Costco’s stock rose 15 cents to $97.26 in premarket trading.

At its U.S. locations open at least a year, the metric climbed 7%. It rose 4% overseas. Excluding the impact of higher gas prices and the stronger dollar, both the U.S. and international figures increased 6%.

Costco’s total revenue for the four weeks ended Aug. 26 rose 8% to $7.4 billion.

For the first 52 weeks of fiscal 2012, revenue at stores open at least a year climbed 7%, with U.S. stores rising by the same percentage. Abroad, the metric climbed 6%.

Stripping out increased gas prices and the stronger dollar, Costco’s revenue at stores open at least a year increased 6%. U.S. stores climbed by the same percent and those overseas increased 9%. Total revenue for the first 52 weeks of 2012 climbed 9% to $95.12 billion.

Costco’s fiscal 2012 are 53 weeks long, ending Sept. 2. Fiscal 2011 had 52 weeks.

Costco said it is opening new warehouses in Taiwan and Korea this week. The Issaquah, Wash., company said it will end fiscal 2012 with 608 warehouses, including 439 in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, 82 in Canada, 32 in Mexico, 22 in the U.K., 13 in Japan, nine in Taiwan, eight in Korea and three in Australia.

 

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