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Sizzle in mass channel leaves home cold

New York – “The weakest performing categories were home…” declared Bon-Ton Stores vice chairman and president – merchandising Tony Buccina, in a comment on June sales results that was echoed with distressing frequency across all retail channels.

JCPenney reported that “home continued to experience softer sales performance;” Target said its “home assortment declined in the high single-digit range;” and Jim Famalette, chairman and ceo of Gottschalks, included textiles as among the “most challenging” categories.

Among soft lines specialty operators, 284-store Stein Mart said linens were among the categories “significantly below company trend.”

Even at surging off-price giant TJX Cos., comps were down 3% at the HomeGoods division, leading the company to comment that “the strong demand for apparel may have weakened demand for home products slightly,” and that HomeGoods had “allowed too large a percentage of high-ticket items into our mix.”

Walmart did say all six of its merchandise units had positive comps, but did not single out home for specific comment, which it did for most other units.

Other retailers, such as Kohl’s – striding into positive turf with a 2.3% comp gain – and Ross Stores – among the winners with a comp gain of 8.0% – also declined to mention the home department, even while they lauded various categories in apparel, seasonal and consumable products.

With the exception of Kohl’s, the retail marketplace continued to look like two separate animals. Of the 15 retailers tracked by HTT, the seven top gainers in comparable store sales were warehouse clubs, deep-discounters, off-pricers – and Walmart – all well into the mid- to high-single-digit comp gain territory.

Department stores, on the other hand, remained in the doldrums. Bon-Ton and Dillard’s posted mid-single-digit comp declines, and JCPenney posted a 2.4% comp drop for the five-week month.

Discounters and warehouse clubs led the Johnson Redbook Same Store Sales Index (SSI) of 40 retailers to a 3.7% comp gain for June. This was the third consecutive month of comp gains for the Index, coming on top of a 2.5% gain in May that followed a 3.3% uptick in April.

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