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Snowy drifts buried shoppers' will to spend

Don Hogsett, Staff Staff -- Home Textiles Today, March 10, 2003

What consumers were doing in February? Shoveling snow, fretting about all the war talk and watching the stock markets heading south once again. What they weren't doing? Shopping.

With Americans snowed in and increasingly wary, same-store retail were clobbered during February, and big American retailers put up some of their most disappointing results in more than a year, many even recording double-digit declines in the crucial measure of same-store sales as consumers held on tight to their wallets.

Not unexpectedly, full-price department stores were among the hardest hit, with Elder-Beerman down by 14.5 percent; Sears off by 9.4 percent; May down by 8.9 percent; Federated dropping off by 6.8 percent; and Marshall Field's slipping by 1.8 percent. The exception to the rule in the full-price channel was Southern-based Dillard's, which missed much of the snow and pushed its same-store sales up by 3.0 percent. Another winner was the Saks Department Stores Group — Carson's, Proffitt's, Younkers, McRae's, etc. — where same-store sales edged up by 1.2 percent, even as they fell by 4.1 percent at sister company Saks Fifth Ave.

But with snows blanketing the malls and shutting in consumers, the malaise was spread across the board during February, and no channel was immune to the pain. Discounters like Target felt the squeeze, with same-store sales slipping by 1.4 percent. Wal-Mart was held to a 2.6 percent gain, way behind the big 11.0 percent increase in the same month a year ago.

And off-pricers had their wings clipped as well. Value City was down a heart-stopping 12.1 percent, and it was almost as bad at Stein Mart, down 10.0 percent. TJX skidded down by 5.0 percent, and even rocket-hot Kohl's hit the wall, with sales tumbling down by 4.6 percent.

Another high-flier that fell out of the nest last month was Pier 1 Imports, which snapped a long winning string as it recorded a 5.8 percent drop in same-store sales.

And as tough as February was, March could be hard hit as well — this time by the calendar, if not the weather. With Easter coming unusually late this year, holiday sales will be pulled out of March and pushed back into April, making comparisons with a year ago all the more difficult.

There was plenty of pain to go around
February's double-digit losers

Company % chg.
Elder-Beerman -14.5
Value City -12.1
JC Penney Catalog -11.2
Stein Mart -10.0


February sales for major retailers (period ending 2/28/03)a
sales in $millions

Company 2003 sales 2002 sales Total % change Same-store % change
( ): loss
a: Reporting periods vary from store to store.
b: Will not report numbers until emerges from Chapter 11.
c: For the period ending July 28.
d: For the period ending July 26.
e: Excludes sales of stores that have been closed and not replaced.
f: For the period ending July 31.
Costco c $3,060.0 $2,770.0 10.5 6.0
Dillard Dept. Stores 610.3 599.1 1.9 3.0
Dollar General d 476.3 428.4 11.2 2.5
Elder-Beerman 35.9 42.0 (14.5) (14.5)
Family Dollar 354.8 312.0 13.7 2.8
Federated 985.0 1,048.0 (6.0) (6.8)
Gottschalks 43.3 44.7 (3.1) (1.6)
Hancock Fabrics c 35.0 33.5 4.5 5.0
JCPenney e 2,264.0 2,294.0 (1.3) NA
Dept. stores 906.0 940.0 (3.6) (2.1)
Catalog/e-commerce 174.0 196.0 (11.2) NA
Jo-Ann Stores 108.4 109.7 (1.2) 1.0
Kmart b NA NA NA NA
Kohl's Corp. 486.2 441.1 10.2 (4.6)
May Dept. Stores 846.0 914.3 (7.5) (8.9)
Pier 1 Imports 116.6 112.8 3.4 (5.8)
Ross Stores c 243.0 227.0 7.0 (3.0)
Saks Inc. 367.1 381.3 (3.7) (4.1)
Dept. stores 226.6 222.8 1.7 1.2
Sears U.S. sales 1,749.9 1,900.4 (7.9) (9.4)
ShopKo f 215.6 218.5 (1.3) (1.2)
ShopKo stores 163.5 NA 1.0 (1.0)
Pamida 52.1 NA (2.4) (1.8)
Stein Mart 91.0 97.6 (6.8) (10.0)
Target Corp. 2,926.0 2,750.0 6.4 (1.4)
Target 2,509.0 NA 8.8 (0.5)
Mervyn's 219.0 NA (9.2) (9.2)
Marshall Field's 170.0 NA (1.8) (1.8)
TJX Cos. 776.0 752.0 3.2 (5.0)
Value City 145.0 156.2 (7.2) (12.1)
Value City Dept. stores 88.7 100.4 (11.7) (11.2)
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. 18,796.0 17,207.0 9.2 2.6
Wal-Mart stores 12,172.0 11,106.0 9.6 2.6
Sam's Club 2,426.0 2,244.0 8.1 6.9


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