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Off-Pricers Outpace Pack In Holiday Comps

Santa came late and left early, spending too little time at this year's Christmas party, leaving retailers holding the bag with largely lackluster sales — nothing like a disaster, but hardly what they'd been hoping for.

Driving the point home, Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer and a bellwether of sorts for the entire retail sector, said December same-store sales in its core discount stores rose a slender 1.9 percent, at the low end of its forecast. Indeed, Wal-Mart's gain in the all-important Christmas season was far beneath the industry's 2.8 percent increase during the holiday season of 2004.

With gasoline and heating oil prices still at high levels, antsy consumers held on tight to their wallets, making off-pricers the clear winners during the holiday season. Indeed, in Home Textiles Today's monthly ranking of sales at key retailers, the five strongest performers were all off-pricers, led by Costco, with a 7.0 percent increase in comps. Even that was less than stellar, coming in beneath the 9.0 percent increase put up a year ago. Ditto Sam's, whose 3.6 percent gain fell short of last year's 5.4 percent.

Other off-pricers fell way short of the mark, placing among the month's biggest losers. Stein Mart same-store sales tumbled by 6.1 percent, a real downturn compared to 2004's 10.3 percent gain for the month.

Department stores scored mostly middling results, led, surprisingly, by Gottschalks with a 3.7 percent uptick, a big improvement over flat sales a year ago. Federated sales advanced by 3.4 percent, improving on last year's 2.3 percent Christmas gain. Dillard sales rose 1.0 percent, as they had the prior year. Sales at JCPenney stores advanced by 2.2 percent, a 3.5 percentage-point climb above last year's 1.3 percent decline.

Winners and losers
Not With a Bang, But a Whimper

Winners
Costco 7.0%
Ross Stores 6.0
TJX 6.0
Target 4.7
Kohl's 4.6
Losers
Stein Mart -6.1%
Hancock Fabrics -4.9
Pier 1 -4.8
Jo-Ann Stores -0.5
Value City -0.2


December sales for key retailers
Five weeks ended Dec. 31a, (dollar amounts in millions)

2005 sales 2004 sales Total % chg. Same-store % chg.
a. Reporting periods vary from store to store.
b. for the 18 weeks year to date.
c. Includes results of May Department Stores
d. Reflects the sale of some department store nameplates.
BJ's Wholesale Club $965.9 $924.5 4.5 1.4
The Bon-Ton Stores $259.9 $257.8 0.8 0.8
Costco $6,370.0 $5,770.0 10.4 7.0
Dillard Dept. Stores $1,270.3 $1,255.9 1.1 1.1
Dollar General $1,049.0 $1,007.0 4.2 2.8
Family Dollar $804.9 $742.8 8.4 2.3
Federated c $5,708.0 $2,856.0 99.9 3.4
Gottschalks $131.5 $125.2 5.0 3.7
Hancock Fabrics $48.3 $49.9 (3.2) (4.9)
JCPenney $3,256.0 $3,157.0 3.1 N.A
Dept. stores $2,839.0 $2,757.0 3.0 2.2
Catalog/e-commerce $417.0 $400.0 4.3 N.A
Jo-Ann Stores $273.5 $261.5 4.6 (0.5)
Kohl's Corp. $2,481.8 $2,135.3 16.2 4.6
Pier 1 Imports $286.9 $289.6 (1.0) (4.8)
Retail Ventures $386.8 $364.4 6.2 3.2
Value City Dept. Stores $217.8 $219.8 (0.1) (0.2)
Ross Stores $672.0 $579.0 16.1 6.0
Saks Inc. d $898.4 $1,056.3 (14.9) 2.4
Saks Fifth Avenue Stores $383.8 $397.6 (3.5) 3.1
Dept. stores d $514.6 $658.7 (21.9) 1.8
Stein Mart $211.8 $224.0 (5.4) (6.1)
Target Corp. $8,420.0 $7,548.0 11.6 4.7
TJX Cos. $2,300.0 $2,100.0 11.0 6.0
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. $40,826.0 $38,424.0 6.3 2.2
Wal-Mart Stores $27,920.0 $26,177.0 6.7 1.9
Sam's Club $4,605.0 $4,396.0 4.8 3.6
YTD sales for major retailers
48 weeks year-to-date a
BJ's Wholesale Club $7,620.5 $6,724.3 8.0 3.7
The Bon-Ton Stores $1,224.4 $1,248.1 (1.9) (1.9)
Costco b $20,220.0 $18,170.0 11.3 8.0
Dillard Dept. Stores $7,053.3 $7,038.8 0.2 0.2
Dollar General $7,800.0 $7,100.0 10.2 2.3
Family Dollar $2,316.4 NA 9.1 2.8
Federated c $21,495.0 $14,958.0 43.7 1.3
Gottschalks $641.0 $626.8 2.3 1.2
Hancock Fabrics $371.4 $395.9 (6.2) (7.0)
JCPenney $17,690.0 $17,066.0 3.7 N.A
Dept. stores $15,048.0 $14,515.0 3.7 2.9
Catalog/e-commerce $2,642.0 $2,551.0 3.6 N.A
Jo-Ann Stores $1,742.0 $1,677.0 3.9 (0.6)
Kohl's Corp. $12,725.8 $11,103.7 14.6 3.5
Pier 1 Imports $1,607.4 $1,661.7 (3.3) (8.1)
Retail Ventures $2,760.2 $2,601.0 6.1 0.2
Value City Dept. Stores $1,317.2 $1,370.5 (3.9) (3.3)
Ross Stores $4,655.0 $3,998.0 16.4 6.0
Saks Inc. d $5,595.1 $6,033.2 (7.3) 2.0
Saks Fifth Avenue Stores $2,547.3 $2,545.9 0.1 4.0
Dept. stores d $3,047.8 $3,487.3 (12.6) 0.4
Stein Mart $1,401.4 $1,379.9 1.6 0.3
Target Corp. $47,705.0 NA 12.1 5.6
TJX Cos. $15,100.0 $14,100.0 7.0 2.0
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. $290,288.0 $265,013.0 9.5 3.5
Wal-Mart Stores $194,861.0 $177,889.0 9.5 3.2
Sam's Clubs $36,939.0 $34,441.0 7.3 3.5


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