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Weak July chain sales make few winners, many losers among key retailers

New York – July proved to be a challenging month for most key retailers and especially department stores, some of which suffered double-digit same-store-sales losses. JCPenney led that pack, followed closely by Dillard’s and then Macy’s.

Only three stores in HTT’s round-up of home textiles retailers – Ross, TJX and Kohl’s – managed positive comp store sales results. In Kohl’s case, the gain was hairline 0.4%.

JCPenney found a sliver of a silver lining in its disappointing July results, noting they were “slightly better” than the company’s guidance for sales to decrease 13% to 16%.

“Sales during the month were impacted by a combination of a later start to the back-to-school selling period and the shift of several state tax-free shopping periods into this year’s fiscal August, as well as by lower levels of clearance inventory relative to last year,” JCP said.

The second worst performer last month was Dillard’s, which saw its total sales for July decrease 15% and its comp store sales dip 12% for the four-week period.

More bad news: Dillard’s sales performance in home and furniture category was “significantly below trend during the period,” the retailer said.

For Macy’s, the only bright spots in its July business were its e-commerce sites – www.macys.com and www.bloomingdales.com – which combined were up 7.9% in sales for the period and 12.7% for the year to date.

While few retailers had much to celebrate in July, the soft home department showed some flashes of life.

At Costco, where same store sales fell 8%, domestics was singled out as among non-food categories that showed better comp results compared to June.

Together with other such categories, like sporting goods, office supplies and apparel for men and women, domestics helped Costco generate positive comps of close to 10% for the non-food category, said Bob Nelson, vp of finance and investor relations.

Kohl’s also experienced gains in its home, which coupled with accessories and footwear “outperformed the month,” the company said.

At The Bon-Ton Stores, where July results of 9.8% comp store sales declines positioned the regional department store as the fourth worst performer on HTT’s chart, the chain said it was “encouraged” during the period by the initial response to it fall merchandise offerings presented in its semi-annual home and furniture event and children's back-to-school promotion.

“As a result of the success of these promotions, our best performing businesses in the month were furniture, home and children's, followed by ladies' moderate sportswear,” said Tony Buccina, vice chairman and president-merchandising of the York, Pa.-based retailer “Our weakest performing businesses were better ladies' sportswear and men's. Having ended the month with comparable store inventories down 5% from last year, we enter the fall season with fresh, well-focused inventories."

The Johnson Redbook put the full retail industry’s comp decline at 5.0% following a 5.1% drop in June and a 4.6% drop in May. Among the 33 merchants tracked by the firm, 79% posted negative comps for the month. Hardest hit were department stores, where the aggregate comp fell 9.6% on top of a 5.0% decline in July 2008.

 

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