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Department Stores Take Comp Lead in February

FEBRUARY SALESNEW YORK - The major department stores got their new fiscal calendars off to a strong start in February, with most of them posting mid- to high-single digit comp increases, followed by off-price chains and discounters, which saw more modest low-single digit gains in comps for the month.
     Of the 13 key ret ailers tracked monthly by HTT, only two - regional department store chains Dillard's and The Bon-Ton Stores - suffered losses, although only minor declines of 1.0% and 0.5%, respectively.
     The home category could take credit for just a few retailers' successes in February, when shoppers opened their pocketbooks more often for apparel and accessories.
     In an unexpected turnof events, Jacksonville, Fla.- based Stein Mart, which operates 264 units nationwide, took the lead in comp results, posting an 8.2% increase. The retailer noted that all of its major categories posted positive sales comparisons for the month. The strongest performers were ladies' career sportswear, men's sportswear and the home category, and geographically, its monthly sales were strongest in the Southeast and Northeast.
     All divisions reported comp increases at Plano, Texas-based JCPenney, which generated the month's second highest comp gain at 6.4%. Driving the performance were woman's apparel and accessories, children's apparel, and fine jewelry. The company also credited its "compelling Valentine's Day gift assortments for all ages, lifestyles, and budgets, fresh spring merchandise and industry-leading customer service" with aiding February sales results.
     Home along with fine jewelry and children's took the lead online at www.jcp.com, where sales were said to be strong throughout the month, increasing 11.8%.
     "This reflects enhancements to the merchandise mix on jcp.com as well as ongoing improvements to the online shopping experience," JCP explained.
      Macy's Inc.'s 5.8% comp increase was helped by a significant 30.9% increase in online sales from macys.com and bloomingdales.com combined.

FEBRUARY SALES FOR KEY RETAILERS
Four weeks ended February 26, 2011 (dollar amounts in millions)

 

2011 SALES

2010 SALES

TOTAL % CHG.

SAME-STORE % CHG.

BJ's Wholesale Club b

$814.1

$744.6

9.3

5.5

The Bon-Ton Stores Inc.  

$197.7  

$199.9  

(1.1) 

(0.5) 

Costco Wholesale Corp. c d  

$6,380.0  

$5,610.0  

14.0  

6.0 

Dillard's Inc. 

$492.6 

$499.2 

(1.0) 

(1.0) 

Duckwall-ALCO Stores Inc.  

$35.5  

$33.6 

5.5 

3.1 

Fred's Inc.  

$153.6  

$150.6 

2.0 

0.9 

J. C. Penney Company Inc.  

$1,214.0 

$1,182.0  

2.7  

6.4 

Kohl's Corp.  

$1,161.0 

$1,084.0  

7.1 

5.0 

Macy's Inc.  

$1,765.0  

$1,667.0  

5.9 

5.8 

Ross Stores Inc.  

$595.0 

$554.0 

7.0 

3.0 

Stein Mart Inc. 

$80.4 

$74.5 

7.9 

8.2 

Target Corp.  

$4,750.0

$4,637.0  

2.4  

1.8 

The TJX Companies Inc. 

$1,500.0

$1,400.0

3.0  

3.0 

a. Reporting periods vary from chain to chain.
b. Excluding gasoline sales, merchandise comparable club sales increased by 2.4% for the four-week period.
c. Mexico sales accounted for approximately three percentage points of the increase for the four-week period.
d. February comp club results are for the U.S. division. Excluding the positive impacts of inflation in gasoline prices and strengthening foreign currencies, comparable club sales for the month were up 4% in the U.S. division, 7% in the international division, and 5% for the total company. 

     Consumer reaction to new spring merchandise has been encouraging," said Terry Lundgren, chairman, president and ceo.
     Cincinnati-based Macy's same-store sales in the combined March-and-April period are expected to be up by approximately 3%, consistent with full-year guidance. March same-store sales are planned to be down, with April planned to be up, given a calendar shift in which the pre-Easter period and a planned cosmetics promotion fall into April this year versus March last year.
     Home was among the lines of business that achieved lowto mid-single digit increases in February at Menomonee Falls, Wis.-based Kohl's, said Kevin Mansell, chairman, president and ceo.
     "All lines of business reported positive comparable store sales for the month," he added, citing men's, women's and children's at the period's best, outperforming the company with high-single digit comp gains.
     Not even the impact of inclement weather during February's first two weeks could dampen comp results for general merchandise 23-state chain Duckwall-ALCO.
     Rich Wilson, president and ceo of the Abilene, Kan.-based retailer, said its performance "represents a solid start to the new fi scal year. We continue to achieve positive momentum as a result of several key initiatives that include enhancing the shopping experience for ALCO customers, improving product selection, and integrating the ‘Best Choice' and ‘Always Save' private label brands."

WINNERS AND LOSERS

Same-store sales % change

WINNERS

Stein Mart Inc.  

8.2% 

J.C.Penney Company  

6.4% 

Coscto Wholesale Corp.  

6.0% 

Macy's Inc.  

5.8% 

BJ's Wholesale Club  

5.5% 

Kohl's Corp.  

5.0% 

Duckwall-ALCO Inc.  

3.1% 

Ross Stores  

3.0% 

TJX Cos.  

3.0% 

Target Corp.  

1.8% 

Fred's Inc. 

0.9% 

LOSERS 

Dillard's Inc.  

(1.0)% 

The Bon-Ton Stores Inc.  

(0.5)% 

     Off-price competitors Ross Stores and TJX Companies each reported 3.0% comps For Pleasanton, Calif.-based Ross, these results exceeded its original forecast for a fl at to 1% increase.
     "While we are encouraged by our solid start to the year, the much more important March/April holiday selling period is still ahead. As a result, our forecast for same store sales to be down 2% to 3% in March and up 4% to 5% in April remains unchanged," noted Michael Balmuth, vice chairman and ceo. He cited dresses and juniors as the month's strongest merchandise areas.
     Framingham, Mass.-based TJX Cos. continued to see its customer traffi c grow in February, "signaling to us that great value remains a top priority for consumers. We're pleased to be off to a good start in the new year, well positioned to capitalize on the great fashions and brands that we see in the marketplace," said Carol Meyrowitz, ceo.
     Comps in the home area at Minneapolis-based Target Corp. declined in the low- to mid-single digit range. Housewares and seasonal were the category's strongest performers, but decorative home was the softest.
     Overall, Target's February comparable-store sales were in line with expectations, said Gregg Steinhafel, chairman, president and ceo.
     Because the Easter holiday will be three weeks later than last year, "which is expected to cause pre-Easter sales to move from March into April this year," he added, Target expects a mid- to upper-single-digit declines in its March comparable- store sales, followed by a mid-teens increase in its April

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