September Comp Sales “Sluggish” as Consumer Confidence Wanes

In Reports, What's New, Industry News by Jeff Prine

Shopping Cart ButtonNew York—A drop in consumer confidence, warmer temperatures, and lack of a fashion must have resulted in September comparable store sales that were sluggish.

Of the nine retailers that still report monthly sales, comparable store sales are expected to rise only 3.1% versus a 5.5% gain a year ago, according to Thomson Reuters.

Retail Metrics estimated a 3.9% increase, basically flat with August comp growth and down from the 4.2% growth logged in July and the 4.3% gain posted in June.

“The economy took a breather in both August and September with wage gains being very minimal for lower- and middle-income consumers,” said Ken Perkins, president at Retail Metrics.

Lack of Fashion Must Haves?

Besides above-normal temperatures that hurt sales of fall apparel, Perkins called the fashion cycle “ho-hum” this year.

“Confidence waned during the month, in part due to concerns over the government shutdown,” said Perkins. “All these factors combined to result in somewhat sluggish September sales.”

Many retailers, including majors such as Walmart, Target, Macy’s, Kohl’s, JCPenney etc., have stopped reporting monthly results over the past year, making it more difficult to gauge the performance of the entire industry. Hindering today’s figure is the fact that Gap Inc. is slated to post results after the market close.

Another metric, a tally of 11 retailers compiled by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), reported U.S. chain sales rose 4%.

“The biggest story line here is that the September performance was led by the drug-store segment, posting its strongest monthly showing since April 2007,” said Michael P. Niemira, chief economist for ICSC. “This seemingly heralds the full recovery of this segment after an extended period of weakness due to several mitigating factors.”

While drugstore business may have improved, apparel sales posted the weakest performance, edging up only 0.1%, ICSC said.

Meanwhile, a report from MasterCard Advisors said September retail sales were up just 3% year-over year due to a “significant drop-off in gasoline spending and a lack of major growth in other sectors.”

MasterCard also said online retail was up by double digits over last year, while apparel, department store, hardware, furniture and furnishing sales were all down.

The September results lead into the final quarter of the year when retailers do most of their business. The fact that consumer confidence could be further impacted by the government shutdown and debt ceiling debate has many analysts and retailers concerned.

Among the remaining retailers reporting monthly sales figures are:

●L Brands Inc., parent to Victoria’s Secret, reported its September comparable store sales rose 1% (up 2% year-to-date) but analysts’ average estimate expected a 2% increase. Total net sales were $786 million in September, up from $773.6 million during the same period a year ago.

●American Apparel Inc. posted a 6% decrease in comparable store sales for September, including an 8% decrease in comp sales in its retail store channel and 8% increase in net sales online. Wholesale net sales increased 12% compared to September 2012.

Total net sales were $49.9 million, a decrease of 2% over September 2012.

“Our negative same store sales for the month of September were primarily a result of significant difficulties in the launch of our new distribution center at La Mirada, California, for which I take responsibility,” said Dov Charney, chairman/ceo. “A multitude of issues, including technical, planning, staffing and design and integration, resulted in distractions in various aspects of our operations, including store operations, manufacturing and product development.”

Charney said that when the distribution center is in place the company will be stronger over the next five to 10 years. He also said he expected comp store sales to be
“positive in the fourth quarter in all channels, including online, retail, and wholesale.”

●Buckle Inc. posted a 4.5% drop in its September comparable store sales. Analysts had expected a 1.2% increase in comp sales. Total net sales were flat at $99.1 million as its women’s sales fell slightly and men’s sales increased. For the year to date, comp sales increased 1.1%. Total revenue increased 3.4% to $702.4 million.

●Zumiez Inc. said its September comparable store sales decreased 0.6% in line with analysts’ predictions. Total net sales were down 6% to $58.9 million.

●Cato Corp. posted a 3% decline in its September comparable store sales. Total net sales increased 3% to $72.9 million. Sales for the 35 weeks ended Oct. 5 totaled $628.6 million, down 1% from sales of $637.5 million a year ago. Year-to-date comp store sales fell 3%.

“September same-store sales were within our guidance and consistent with our current trend,” said John Cato, chairman/ president/ceo.

●Stein Mart Inc. posted a 5% increase in its September comparable store sales, driven by strength in linens, women’s apparel and gifts. Weaker categories were accessories, men’s furnishings and petite.

Strongest regions were Florida, the Southeast and California, while the Midwest and Northeast fared worse. Total revenue was up more than 7% to $112.2 million.

Year-to-date, comp store sales rose 3.8%, while total revenue rose 4% to $807.8 million.

●Costco Wholesale Club reported its September comparable store sales increased 3% missing estimates for a 3.4% increase. Excluding the effect of gasoline prices and foreign currencies, Costco’s comparable store sales were up 5% for September, with the U.S. business up 5% and international comps up 6%.

Total net sales increased 6% to $9.86 billion.


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