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Home helps retailers pick up pace in August

Helped by stronger sales of home goods, warm weather, tax rebate checks and a strong Back-to-School season, key U.S. retailers, most notably those that can draw consumers in with low-pricing strategies, got a big boost in same-store sales during August.

With consumer confidence on the mend, shoppers headed back to the malls and loosened their grips on their wallets, giving retail sales a much-needed boost. And home goods were seeing some of the action, a particularly welcome respite after the summer doldrums and particularly good news for a bruised home fashions business.

A case in point was warehouse club operator Costco, where same-store sales shot up by 9.0 percent during the month. And in a conference call with analysts and investors, the retailer said soft lines comps advanced by 6.0 percent, led by domestics and media, including software and DVDs.

Home fashions and other home-related categories like electronics and appliances, were cited as strong performers by a handful of other retailers. Saks Inc., which operates a broad portfolio of department store nameplates, including Proffitt's, Younkers and Carson, Pirie Scott, said "home, women's special size and better apparel" were among the strongest sellers in its stores.

JCPenney said home was among its strongest categories during the month. Ditto off-pricer Ross Stores. Sears chairman and ceo Alan Lacy said August sales were stronger than expected, with comps moving up by 3.9 percent, helped by improving sales in two home-related categories, home appliances and lawn and garden. And Dollar General, the rapidly expanding neighborhood small-store retailer, said same-store sales of home products, which now account for 13.0 percent of total sales, climbed higher by 5.0 percent during the month, well ahead of apparel with its smaller 3.0 percent gain.

Fabric and crafts specialty retailer Jo-Ann Stores was one of the month's big winners, recording a same-store increase of 9.8 percent, helped by a one-time 60th anniversary sales promotion. Year-to-date comps were up a more modest 3.5 percent. And another fabric and home decorating chain, Hancock Fabrics, had a tougher time of it, with same-store sales slipping by 0.8 percent, up against a particularly difficult comparison with last year's 8.9 percent increase. For the seven months year-to-date, comps were up by 3.4 percent, in line with those of rival Jo-Ann.

The power blackout that shut down part of the nation last month had a dampening effect on some retailer's August results. Terry Lundgren, ceo of Federated Department Stores, said sales exceeded earlier forecasts, and would have been stronger still but for the blackout. Federated sales declined by 2.8 percent, but would have been flat — a full 1 percent to 2 percent better than forecast — were it not for the power outage that shuttered businesses in the Northeast for several days

The complaint was echoed by the TJX Companies, a leading off-pricer of apparel and home fashions through its T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods stores. Same-store sales there were up just 1.0 percent. Edmond English, president and ceo, said, "After a strong start in August, our business was negatively impacted by the blackout, which closed 300 of our stores in both the United States and Canada for one to two days. Following the power outage, business was slow to rebound."

TOP 3
Company % chg.
Jo-Ann Stores 9.2%
Costco 9.0
Target 8.3
BOTTOM 3
Company % chg.
Elder Beerman -9.5%
Mervyn's -8.9
Marshall Field's -7.3


August sales for major retailers
Total chain sales, including all merchandise departments, for period ending 8/30/03a
Sales in $millions

Company 2003 sales 2002 sales Total % change Same-store % change
a: Reporting periods vary from store to store.
b: For the period ending 8/31
c: For the period ending 8/23
d: For the period ending 8/29
Costco b $3,410.0 $3,020.0 12.9% 9.0%
Dillard Dept. Stores 575.4 598.0 (4.0) (4.0)
Dollar General d 514.7 454.7 13.2 4.5
Elder-Beerman b 41.4 45.9 (9.9) (9.5)
Family Dollar 374.0 323.2 15.7 6.1
Federated 1,078.0 1,084.0 (0.6) (0.8)
Gottschalks 47.2 48.0 (1.6) (1.0)
Hancock Fabrics b 30.6 30.8 (0.6) (0.8)
JC Penney c 2,608.0 2,510.0 3.9 NA
Dept. stores 1,298.0 1,236.0 5.0 6.5
Catalog/e-commerce 183.0 187.0 (2.1) NA
Jo-Ann Stores 122.8 111.4 10.2 9.8
Kohl's Corp. 773.5 668.2 15.8 3.2
May Dept. Stores 953.8 964.3 (1.1) (3.2)
Pier 1 Imports 132.7 129.3 2.6 (6.0)
Ross Stores b 315.0 279.0 12.9 2.0
Saks Inc. 401.6 394.4 1.8 0.8
Dept. stores 243.4 237.2 2.6 0.7
Sears U.S. sales b 2,050.9 1,970.5 4.1 3.9
ShopKo 256.2 NA 1.2 1.4
ShopKo stores 195.5 NA 0.1 0.1
Pamida 60.7 NA 4.9 5.9
Stein Mart 92.9 98.1 (5.2) (7.1)
Target Corp. 3,632.0 NA 12.4 5.7
Target 3,116.0 NA 15.9 8.3
Mervyn's 292.0 NA (8.2) (8.9)
Marshall Field's 165.0 NA (8.5) (7.3)
TJX Cos. 995.0 920.0 8.2 1.0
Value City 205.1 188.7 8.7 4.2
Value City Dept. stores 123.8 120.6 2.7 2.8
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. d 19,533.0 17,182.0 13.7 6.9
Wal-Mart stores 13,405.0 11,782.0 13.8 6.6
Sam's Club 2,651.0 2,382.0 11.3 8.2
30 weeks to date
Costco b NA NA NA NA
Dillard Dept. Stores $4,110.8 $4,326.8 (5.0%) (4.0%)
Dollar General d 3,700.0 3,300.0 13.0 4.5
Elder-Beerman b 305.0 320.7 (4.9) (4.1)
Family Dollar NA NA NA NA
Federated 7,803.0 8,023.0 (2.7) (2.8)
Gottschalks 339.8 353.4 (3.8) (1.4)
Hancock Fabrics b 234.3 227.5 3.0 3.4
JC Penney c 17,414.0 17,436.0 (0.1) NA
JCPenney stores 7,531.0 7,665.0 (1.7) (0.3)
Catalog/e-commerce 1,331.0 1,387.0 (4.0) NA
Jo-Ann Stores 856.8 837.5 2.3 3.5
Kohl's Corp. 5,099.7 4,460.6 14.3 (0.2)
May Dept. Stores 6,826.7 7,090.4 (3.7) (5.6)
Pier 1 Imports 830.5 795.3 4.4 (3.8)
Ross Stores b 2,160.0 1,975.0 9.4 (1.0)
Saks Inc. 3,000.1 3,039.2 (1.3) (1.7)
Dept. stores 1,785.1 1,802.4 (1.0) (1.9)
Sears U.S. sales b 14,955.4 15,323.0 (2.4) (3.1)
ShopKo 1,728.8 NA (2.1) (1.9)
ShopKo stores 1,284.8 NA (3.5) (3.5)
Pamida 444.0 NA 2.2 3.0
Stein Mart 727.1 765.5 (5.0) (7.5)
Target Corp. 24,257.0 NA 8.5 1.4
Target 20,858.0 NA 10.7 2.8
Mervyn's 1,835.0 NA (7.4) (7.8)
Marshall Field's 1,260.0 NA (5.2) (4.2)
TJX Cos. 6,893.0 6,397.0 7.8 0.0
Value City 1,398.2 1,343.7 4.1 (0.7)
Value City Dept. stores 803.3 816.3 (1.6) (1.1)
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. d 140,120.0 126,332.0 10.9 3.4
Wal-Mart stores 95,272.0 86,443.0 10.2 3.3
Sam's Clubs 19,133.0 17,705.0 8.1 3.7


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