Apparel retailers reported Thursday monthly sales performances of stores open for at least a year, with most topping analysts' expectations. The month of September saw last minute back-to-school and back-to-college shopping, but most retailers reported very modest growth in sales at established stores. However, sales were down at Wet Seal, Cato and Buckle.
The month of September and October are normally a breather between two months of strong back-to-school shopping that began in July and the all-important holiday shopping season that starts in November.
September sales have also been hit by higher gasoline prices and uncertainty about the upcoming presidential election. However, consumer sentiment has hit a four-month high in September.
A report released from the Conference Board a little over a week ago showed a much bigger than expected improvement in U.S. consumer confidence in the month of September. The U.S. consumer confidence index rose to 70.3 in September from an upwardly revised reading of 61.3 in August, beating expectations of a 64.8 reading. The improvement primarily stemmed from an optimistic outlook for the job market.
Comparable-store sales or Comps is a key retail industry performance metric to gauge activity at store locations that have been open for at least a year. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected the retailers' Comps to increase 3.6 percent in September, lower than the 6.4 percent rise in September last year.
Most of the retailers topped analysts' estimates, except Buckle.
Limited Brands, Inc. (LTD: Quote), the operator of Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works chains, said its September comparable store sales rose 5 percent, higher than Street expectations for a 4.3 percent growth, compared to an 11 percent growth in the prior-year month, reflecting the continued strength of its Victoria's Secret Stores brand, which posted comparable store sales increase of 6 percent.
However, the Columbus, Ohio-based retailer of women's apparel, beauty and personal care products posted September net sales of $773.6 million, down from $818.6 million last year.
Another specialty apparel retailer Gap, Inc. (GPS: Quote) said its September comparable-store sales were up 6 percent, including the associated comparable online sales, compared to 4 percent decline in September 2011. Street was looking for a 5.4 percent growth.
"In September, strong customer response to trend-right product across all brands helped us deliver continued positive performance in North America," Chairman and CEO of Gap, Glenn Murphy said.
San Francisco, California-based Gap's September net sales grew 8 percent to $1.45 billion from $1.35 billion in the prior-year month.
Jacksonville, Florida-based Stein Mart, Inc. (SMRT: Quote) reported a 2.5 percent increase in its comparable store sales for the month of September, compared to a 1.7 percent decline last year. Total monthly sales also grew 3.9 percent to $102.7 million from the prior-year month.
"Early in the month, sales were impacted by hurricane Isaac resulting in a number of stores not being operational for a period of time. Despite this, we were able to deliver positive results this month," said Jay Stein, Interim CEO.
Meanwhile, value-priced fashion apparel retailer Cato Corp. (CATO: Quote) reported that September same-store sales were down 4 percent, while total sales increased 1 percent from last year to $71.1 million.
"September same-store sales reflect a minimal negative impact from Hurricane Issac and were mostly in line with our year-to-date trend," stated John Cato, chairman, president, and CEO.
Looking ahead, Cato said it expects third-quarter earnings in a range of $0.12 to $0.17 per share.
Los Angeles, California-based branded fashion basic apparel retailer American Apparel, Inc. (APP: Quote) said September preliminary comparable store sales increased 14 percent over last year. Preliminary total net sales for the month also grew 10 percent to $51.1 million from a year ago.
"This past month aligned with our internal expectations, and we anticipate that both our retail and wholesale segments will experience continued sales momentum heading into October and the Holiday selling season," said Dov Charney, CEO and Chairman.
Buckle Inc. (BKE: Quote) said comparable store net sales for September edged down 0.8 percent over last year, lower than the 1.0 percent growth analysts were expecting, while net sales edged up 0.8 percent to $99.1 million from a year ago.
On Tuesday, specialty retailer to young women Wet Seal, Inc. (WTSLA: Quote) stated that September comparable store sales decreased 12.7 percent, and topped analysts' estimates for a 15.5 percent drop. Based on brands, the Foothill Ranch, California-based company's September comparable store sales declined 12.6 percent at Wet Seal and it was a 13.6 percent drop at Arden B.
The company's total net sales also decreased 9.9 percent to $48.3 million from last year, with Wet Seal sales declining 8.7 percent, and Arden B sales dropping 16.3 percent. Meanwhile, e-commerce sales rose 15 percent over last September.
Commenting on the sales results, Wet Seal's CEO Susan McGalla stated, "These results are in line with expectations we had at the beginning of this quarter for progressive improvements from month to month."
Another specialty retailer of action sports related apparel, footwear, equipment and accessories Zumiez, Inc. (ZUMZ: Quote) also reported Tuesday that its comparable store sales for September increased 5.6 percent, beating analysts' expectations for a 3.2 percent growth. Total net sales grew 18.6 percent from last year to $62.7 million.
| || |
| To receive FREE breaking news email alerts for Limited Brands Inc. and others in your portfolio|
by RTT Staff Writer
For comments and feedback: email@example.com