• Jennifer Marks

Retail Sales Show a Healthy Pulse in October

Retail sales showed signs of life in October — in some cases, robustly so.

TJX was once again a big winner, and it posted the kinds of comps in home that retailers haven't seen since the glory days of the housing boom.

Home camps at the U.S. MarMaxx Group rose 14% last month, while comps at the Home Goods division rocketed up 18%, according to the company.

Total comps both MarMaxx and A.J. Wright climbed 12% during the month. The pace was decidedly less brisk at the Winners/Home Sense division in Canada, where comps rose just 1%.

Carol Meyrowitz, president and ceo of The TJX Companies, said the month “reflects the strong momentum of our business.”

Ross Stores also had a strong October, with comps up 9.0%. Here, too, home was singled out as one of the strongest performing categories, along with dresses. Home comps were up by double-digits, according to the company.

Michael Balmuth, vice chairman, president and ceo, said both sales and margins “were well ahead of our expectations.”

Domestics was among the better performing departments in Coscto's soft lines business, the company reported. Despite the impact of lower commodity prices, lower gasoline prices and currency issues, the warehouse club still posted a 5.0% comp increase.

Kohl's home business delivered a mid single-digit comp increase, out-performing the chain's overall 1.4% comp gain.

“October's sales results reflected our fourth consecutive month of positive comparable store sales, an indication of our consistent gains in market share,” said Kevin Mansell, chairman, president and ceo.

The Bon-Ton Stores pulled a rare feat for a traditional department store; it generated a comp increase. The 3.1% improvement was driven by sales of apparel, accessories and soft home. Furniture and hard home were the company's weakest businesses.

“We are encouraged by the sustained improvement in our sales trend, which began in August,” said Tony Buccina, vice chairman and president – merchandising.

Target's home department comps declined in the mid single-digit ranges, with the strongest sales taking place in domestics and housewares.

“Sales for the month of October were slightly better than our expectation,” said Gregg Steinhafel, chairman, president and ceo. “Consistent with September results, October comparable store transactions were positive, and comparable store sales in apparel were slightly stronger than for the company overall. We are entering the holiday season with very clean inventories and we believe we are positioned to perform well in what continues to be a challenging economic environment.”

Poor sales in home helped contribute to Dillard's 8.0% comp decline. The company put home and furniture at the top of the list of categories operating significantly below trend.

JCPenney didn't address home when reporting its 4.5% fall-off. The company said overall sales were better than expectations during the first two weeks of the period, softened in the third week and fell below expectations the final week of the month. Women's apparel and shoes were the strongest sellers, jewelry the weakest. Internet sales rose 6%.

Internet sales surged by 34.6% at Macy's Inc., helping to hold the company's comp decline to 0.8%. The company said online sales positively affected comps by 0.6 percentage points in the third quarter and 0.5 percentage points in the year to date.

Stein Mart did not share in the bounty that visited its off-price competitors last month, and comps fell 4.9%.

“Although comparable sales improved somewhat through the quarter, the lower level of clearance merchandise was a significant factor in our reduced sales,” said David Stovall Jr., president and ceo of Stein Mart, Inc.

The Johnson Redbook Same-Stores Sales Index rose 2.1% — more than three times larger than the second largest sales increase in the past 12 months. It followed a 0.6% gain in September and a 2.7% drop in August.

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 from lower gasoline prices and volumes versus last year, BJ's merchandise comparable club sales increased by 3.7%.
c. Costco U.S. comps rose 2%, while international comps rose 17%. Adjusting for the impact of currency and gasoline deflation, total comps in October rose 4%, with U.S. comps up 3.0% and international comps up 7%.
d. Comp includes a negative impact from sales of gasoline of 8.8%
e. Excluding stores closed, sales from ongoing Fred's stores increased 1%.
BJ's Wholesale Club b $764.7 $783.9 3.5 (1.1)
The Bon-Ton Stores $224.0 $218.4 2.5 3.1
Costco c $1,253.0 $1,197.0 7.0 5.0
Dillard's Inc. $3,616.8 $4,060.5 (11.0) (8.0)
Duckwall-ALCO $35.0 $35.3 (9.0) (9.0)
Fred's $128.1 $128.4 (0.2) 0.4
J.C. Penney $1,313.0 $1,361.0 (3.5) (4.5)
Kohl's Corp. $1,273.0 $1,213.0 4.9 1.4
Macy's Inc. $1,692.0 $1,714.0 (1.3) (0.8)
Ross Stores $557.0 $490.0 14.0 9.0
Stein Mart $92.2 $100.0 (7.8) (4.9)
Target Corp. $4,541.0 $4,415.0 2.8 (0.1)
TJX Cos. $1,700.0 $1,500.0 15.0 10.0
39 Weeks
BJ's Wholesale Club d $7.200.0 $7,300.0 (1.2) (4.1)
The Bon-Ton Stores $1,957.7 $2,098.6 (6.7) (6.9)
Costco $54,483.0 $55,687.0 (2.2) NA
Dillard Dept. Stores $4,095.4 $4,762.2 (14.0) (12.0)
Duckwall-ALCO $347.0 $339.7 2.2 0.2
Fred's e $1,315.0 $1,329.0 1.0 0.8
JCPenney $12,006.0 $12,727.0 (5.7) (7.2)
Kohl's Corp. $11,496.0 $11.2 3.1 (1.3)
Macy's Inc. $15,639.0 $16,958.0 (7.8) (7.5)
Ross Stores $5,204.0 $4,752.0 10.0 5.0
Stein Mart $887.3 $962.6 (8.9) (6.3)
Target Corp. $43,717.0 $43,861.0 (0.3) (3.9)
TJX Cos. $14,300.0 $13,600.0 5.0 5.0

TJX 10.0
Ross Stores 9.0
Costco 5.0
Duckwall-Alco -9.0
Dillard's -8.0
Stein Mart -4.9
JCPenney -4.5

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