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Later Easter Hits March Comps

Same-Store SalesNEW YORK - What a difference a year makes. Take it from most key retailers.
     March's comparable store sales results for more than half of the 13 major retailers tracked monthly by HTT were negative, showing a very different picture from a year ago when every company on the list posted positive gains, many of them double digits.
     To blame is the delayed Easter holiday this year, which comes April 24 - almost three weeks later than last year.
     "As expected, we reported a decrease in comparable-store sales in March due to the timing of Easter," noted Kevin Mansell, chairman, president and ceo of Menomonee Falls, Wis.-based Kohl's, which posted the highest comp decrease for March, down 6.5%.

WINNERS AND LOSERS 

Same-store sales % change 

WINNERS 

Costco Wholesale Corp.  

7.0% 

BJ's Wholesale Club  

1.3% 

Macy's Inc.  

0.9% 

Fred's Inc.  

0.7% 

Duckwall-ALCO Stores  

0.4% 

LOSERS 

Kohl's Corp.  

(6.5)% 

The Bon-Ton Stores Inc.  

(6.1)% 

Target Corp.

(5.5)% 

Stein Mart Inc.  

(3.9)% 

Dillard's Inc.  

(1.0)% 

Ross Stores  

(1.0)% 

JCPenney Co.  

(0.3)% 

The TJX Companies  

(0.1) 

     Ironically, the mid-tier department store reported the highest comps among key retailers this same time last year - up 22.5%. Among the good news this year, home was among the categories that outperformed Kohl's company average.
     After Kohl's, York, Pa.-based The Bon-Ton Stores posted the highest comp decline at 6.1%. But here, too, home - including furniture - was among the regional department store's best performing categories.
     "As expected, the calendar shift of Easter into late April this year unfavorably impacted March traffic and sales, particularly in the apparel category," explained
     Tony Buccina, vice chairman and president - merchandising. "We believe the combination of the shift of the Easter holiday sales as well as the arrival of more seasonable weather will result in a strong sales performance in April. We are pleased with our merchandise assortment as well as the level and freshness of our inventory."
     Seemingly less affected by the later holiday were the fi ve retailers that posted comp increases, most of them modest.
     Only Costco had a high single digit result - 7.0%, which was helped along by a double-digit comp increase in housewares and home furnishings as well as a few other soft-lines categories.
     BJ's Wholesale Club, based in Westborough, Mass., attributed its 1.3% comp gain - second best on the March list - in part to increased sales of food. Sales of general merchandise decreased by approximately 2%.
     A close third in the month was Cincinnati-based Macy's, which generated a 0.9% comp increase - exceeding expectations, according to chairman, president and ceo Terry Lundgren.
     "We generated same-store sales increases at both Macy's and Bloomingdale's, despite a calendar shift in which the pre-Easter period and a planned cosmetics promotion at Macy's fell into April this year versus March last year," he said.

MARCH SALES FOR KEY RETAILERS

Four weeks ended April 2, 2011 (dollar amounts in millions) a 

 

 2011 SALES 

2010 SALES  

TOTAL % CHG.

SAME-STORE % CHG. 

BJ's Wholesale Club b  

$1,083.3  

$992.7  

9.1  

1.3

The Bon-Ton Stores Inc.  

$254.5  

$272.4  

(6.6)  

(6.1) 

Costco Wholesale Corp. c d  

$8,330.0  

$7,150.0  

17.0  

7.0 

Dillard's Inc.  

$519.8  

$526.8  

(1.0)  

(1.0) 

Duckwall-ALCO Stores Inc.  

$43.8  

$42.5  

3.0  

0.4 

Fred's Inc.  

$188.0  

$183.5  

3.0  

0.7 

J. C. Penney Company Inc.  

$1,467.0  

$1,528.0  

(4.0)  

(0.3) 

Kohl's Corp.  

$1,723.0  

$1,812.0  

(4.9)  

(6.5) 

Macy's Inc.  

$2,207.0 $ 

2,172.0  

1.6  

0.9 

Ross Stores Inc.  

$828.0  

$811.0  

2.0  

(1.0) 

Stein Mart Inc.  

$127.1  

$133.6  

(4.9)

(3.9) 

Target Corp.  

$5,955.0  

$6,233.0  

(4.5)  

(5.5)

The TJX Companies Inc. 

$2,040.0  

$2,030.0  

1.0  

(0.1) 

9 WEEKS 

 2011 SALES
2010 SALES
TOTAL %CHG.
SAME-STORE % CHG.

BJ's Wholesale Club b  

$1,897.4  

$1,737.3  

9.2  

1.8 

The Bon-Ton Stores Inc.  

$452.2  

$472.3  

(4.3)  

(3.7) 

Costco Wholesale Corp. e  

$50,790.0  

$45,210.0  

12.0  

4.0 

Dillard's Inc.  

$1,012.4  

$1,026.0  

(1.0)  

(1.0) 

Duckwall-ALCO Stores Inc.  

$79.3  

$76.2  

4.1  

1.7 

Fred's Inc.  

$342.5  

$334.1  

3.0  

0.7 

J. C. Penney Company Inc.  

$2,681.0  

$2,710.0  

(1.1)  

2.7 

Kohl's Corp.  

$2,884.0  

$2,896.0  

(0.4)  

(2.2) 

Macy's Inc.  

$3,969.0  

$3,839.0  

3.4  

3.0 

Ross Stores Inc.  

$1,423.0  

$1,365.0  

4.0  

1.0 

Stein Mart Inc.  

$207.5  

$208.1  

(0.3)

0.3

Target Corp.  

$10,705.0  

$10,870.0  

(1.5)  

(2.4) 

The TJX Companies Inc.  

$3,500.0  

$3,400.0

2.0 

1.0 

a. Reporting periods vary from chain to chain.
b. Including gasoline, merchandise comparable club sales increased in March by about 5.3%. Year-to-date, BJ's merchandise comparable club sales including gasoline increased 5.4%.
c. Total sales results in March include sales fromthe company's Mexico joint venture; without those sales, the increase would have been 14.0%.
d. March comp club results are for the U.S. division -- including the positive impacts of inflation in gasoline prices and strengthening foreign currencies, comparable club sales for the month were up 11% in the U.S. division, 17% in the international division, and 13% for the total company.
e. Because it is on a different fiscal calendar than the other key retailers on this list, Costco's year-to-date sales and comp results reflect the past 31-week period. Year-to-date comp club results are for the U.S. division -- including the positive impact of inflation in gasoline
and strengthening foreign currencies, comparable club sales were up 6% in the U.S., 14% in the international division, and 8% for the total company. 

     Macy's said it continues to be optimistic about sales in April, which should benefit from the Easter shift and a cosmetics promotion. The department store expects its same-store sales this month to be up by 8% to 9%, which would translate to an increase of 4% to 4.5% for the combined March-April period. Previously, the company said it expected combined March-April sales to be up by approximately 3%.
     The last positive comp producer on the list was Duckwall- Alco, which in March achieved its second consecutive month of positive same-store sales, noted Rich Wilson, president and ceo.
     "Our strategic initiatives to deliver more value, improve store execution and better manage inventory continue to build momentum," he said.
     At JCPenney comps were essentially fl at - down 0.3%, with the home business cited as a driver during the five weeks and so far in the fi rst quarter.
     Within JCP's home department, the biggest increases came from housewares, bath and luggage.
     Home is also credited with boosting traffic and significantly increasing sales lately online at JCP's ecommerce site, www. jcp.com.
     Minneapolis-based Target's soft comps, down 5.5%, were in line with expectations, said Gregg Steinhafel, chairman, president and ceo. He added: "Our stores are well-prepared for the upcoming Easter season, and we continue to expect a mid-teens increase in Target's April comparable-store sales."
     Home, however, was weak at Target in March, declining in the high single digit range.
     At Jacksonville, Fla.-based Stein Mart, comps were also down 3.9%, but home was a bright spot along with men's sportswear and intimate apparel.
     The story was the reverse at Dillard's, where home was significantly below trend. The department store's poor March comps of fell 1.0%.

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