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  • Cecile Corral

Sales Helped by Back to School, but not Home

Chain sales among key retailers in September were better than expected for the most part.

The Johnson Redbook Same-Store Sales Index for September rose 0.6%, marking its first gain since April, when aggregate comps rose 0.5%. The gain followed a 2.7% drop in August and a 5.0% decline in July.

Among the 33 companies on the index — which includes department stores, discount stores, warehouse clubs, apparel specialty stores, and drug stores — 36% posted positive comps and 61% posted negative comps. In August, just 24% reported positive comps. In July, that figure was 21%.

But with regards to the home category, there were gains at only a few stores and losses at most during the five-week period. Instead, shoes and women’s and children’s apparel were more commonly named as best performing categories.

Overall, winners for the period were few. Among those that did make strides with positive comp-store sales were: 8% at Ross Stores, 7.0% at TJX Cos., 5.5% at Kohl’s Corp., 3.3% at Fred’s and 1% at Costco. Only Ross Stores specifically called out home as a bright spot.

“Merchandise and geographic trends remained relatively broad-based. Shoes, home and dresses were the strongest categories during the month, all posting double-digit same store sales increases,” said John Call, svp, cfo, Pleasanton, Calif.-based Ross Stores Inc.

While Natick, Mass.-based BJ’s Wholesale Club saw its comps decline 0.5%, the 184-club chain BJ’s said domestics was among its departments with strong comparable-store sales increases compared to last year.

For most other key retailers, home continued to weigh down results.

At Kohl’s, home was below the company’s overall comp, the Menomonee Falls mid-tier department store reported.

Target’s comps in the home area were down in the high single-digit range, with a higher performance in decorative goods and a weaker performance in domestics, the Minneapolis-based discount retailer noted.

“The sales performances in the home and furniture category and the men’s category were significantly below trend,” at Little Rock, Ark.-based Dillard’s, the department store reported. “Sales of shoes were significantly stronger than trend during the period.”

Tony Buccina, vice chairman and president — merchandising, The Bon-Ton Stores, said that while the regional department store chain was “very pleased with our September sales results, which again exceeded our plan” and gave the retailer cause to be encouraged by the improvement in its sales trend compared with the spring season, “our weakest performing businesses were home and furniture. We entered October with inventories fresher than in the prior year, comparable store inventories down 8.7% and clearance inventories down 22%.”

JCPenney said a 2.7% sales decline at www.jcp.com reflected “the continuation for weaker demand of home merchandise” as home represents the largest part of the total mix on the company’s ecommerce business.

SEPTEMBER SALES FOR KEY RETAILERS
Five weeks ended October 3 (dollar amount in millions) a

2009 Sales 2008 Sales Total % chg. Same-Store % chg.
N/A = not available
a. Reporting periods vary from chain to chain. Wal-Mart no longer reports monthly sales.
b. Excluding the negative impact of gasoline sales, merchandise comparable club sales increased 5.5%.
c. U.S. comps declined 1% and international comps rose by 6% for the five-week period. Excluding the negative impacts from gasoline deflation and foreign exchange, primarily in Canada, United Kingdom and Korea, U.S. comps rose 3%, international comps increased 9%
d. Excluding stores closed, total sales from ongoing stores increased 2% in the first eight months of 2009 versus the year-earlier period. year-to-date from ongoing storesincreased 2% versus the year-ago period
BJ’s Wholesale Club b $928.0 $891.1 4.1 (0.5)
The Bon-Ton Stores $282.9 $299.4 (5.5) (4.8)
Costco c $6,850.0 $6,670.0 3.0 1.0
Dillard’s Inc. $519.3 $568.5 (9.0) (6.0)
Duckwall-ALCO $41.5 $41.7 (0.6) (0.4)
Fred’s $166.6 $160.5 4.0 3.3
J.C. Penney $1,438.0 $1,446.0 (0.6) (1.4)
Kohl’s Corp. $1,464.0 $1,336.0 9.6 5.5
Macy’s Inc. $2,043.0 $2,093.0 (2.4) (2.3)
Ross Stores $629.0 $561.0 12.0 8.0
Stein Mart $101.9 $112.0 (0.9) (5.4)
Target Corp. $5,392.0 $5,320.0 1.3 (1.7)
TJX Cos. $2,000.0 $1,800.0 8.0 7.0
35 Weeks
2009 Sales 2008 Sales Total % chg. Same-Store % chg.
BJ’s Wholesale Club $6,451.3 $6,561.2 (1.7) (4.4)
The Bon-Ton Stores $1,733.7 $1,880.1 (7.8) (8.1)
Costco $53,230.0 $54,490.0 (2.3) NA
Dillard Dept. Stores $3,733.7 $4,356.2 (14.0) (12.0)
Duckwall-ALCO $312.0 $304.3 2.5 0.3
Fred’s d $1,187.0 $1,201.0 (1.0) 0.9
JCPenney $10,693.0 $11,368.0 (5.9) (7.5)
Kohl’s Corp. $10,223.0 $9,941.0 2.8 (1.7)
Macy’s Inc. $13,948.0 $15,244.0 (8.5) (8.2)
Ross Stores $4,647.0 $4,262.0 9.0 4.0
Stein Mart $785.1 $862.6 9.0 (6.5)
Target Corp. $39,176.0 $39,445.0 (0.7) (4.3)
TJX Cos. $12,600.0 $12,200.0 4.0 4.0

Winners and Losers
Same-store sales % change

Winners
Ross Stores 8.0%
TJX Cos. 7.0%
Kohl’s Corp. 5.5%
Losers
Dillard’s Inc. (6.0%)
Stein Mart (5.4%)
The Bon-Ton Stores (4.8%)

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