November a winning month for key retailers

Retail Editor 5, December 2, 2010

New York - With the exception of Stein Mart, which posted flat comps for the period, November proved a solid month in same-store sales for all key retailers.

Heading the pack of 13 major chains tracked monthly by HTT was Plano, Texas-based JCPenney with 9.2% in comp increases. But equally noteworthy was the department store that took second place - Little Rock, Ark.-based Dillard's, with an 8.0% gain, reversing its long streak of soft comp results.

JCP's strong performance was sparked by its "biggest Black Friday sales event" in the 1,100-plus unit chain's history. Top-selling items on Black Friday as well as Cyber Monday included fashion boots, the St. John's Bay-branded cashmere-blend pea coat, and Liz Claiborne sportswear for women, as well as St. John's Bay polos and Stafford flannel sleep pants for men.

"Customers also chose to shop for holiday gift items through, as traffic and conversion on the company's ecommerce site were well-ahead of last year throughout the holiday weekend," JCP noted.

"Customers are responding very well to our gift assortments as well as taking advantage of our great promotions in order to buy for themselves," added Mike Ullman, chairman and ceo.

Dillard's strong results got no help from the home department, which along with furniture and cosmetics was "significantly below trend," the company said.

Another newcomer to the comp-gain list was Abilene, Kan.-based Duckwall-Alco. The 214-unit regional discounter attributed 5.8% comp increase to the revamping effort in its stores and expanded assortments of consumables over the past several months.

"We are encouraged by the Alco stores' 6.3% same-store sales increase in November, including a robust improvement for Thanksgiving week compared to 2009," said Rich Wilson, president and ceo.

Domestics was among the strongest performing categories at Duckwall-Alco in November.

"November marks the second complete month of our new Alco store layouts and merchandise selections, plus the integration of our partnership with Associated Wholesale Grocers to offer the 'Best Choice' and 'Always Save' brands," Wilson continued. "Our core customer is responding positively to Alco's improved value proposition and customer experience."

Even though it was the lowest comp gain on the key-retailer list for November, the 2.9% increase at York, Pa.-based The Bon-Ton Stores was a boon for the regional department store, which has been struggling with the soft economy lately.

Another plus for Bon-Ton: Home was one of the seven best performing categories.

"We are pleased with our sales performance in November, which included a record-breaking Black Friday," said Tony Buccina, vice chairman and president - merchandising. "We begin December well-positioned for holiday selling with comparable store inventory up 3% and our aging of inventory much improved over last year."

Tied for fourth place in November comps were Menomonee Falls, Wis.-based Kohl's and Cincinnati-based Macy's - both with 6.1% comps.

Encouraged by this, Macy's said increased its guidance for sales and earnings in the fourth quarter of 2010. Same-store sales are now are expected to be up 3.5% to 4.5%, compared with previous guidance of up 3% to 4%. Earnings guidance now is $1.44 to $1.49 per share, compared with previous guidance of $1.42 to $1.47 per share. This would result in full-year 2010 earnings of $1.96 to $2.01 per share, excluding expenses associated with the early retirement of debt.


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