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Off-Pricers beat other retailers at holiday

New York – Sales in the all-important Christmas season, when U.S. retailers make most of their money, were spotty to soft – despite heavy promoting and markdown activity.

In many cases December same-store sales came in beneath November levels. While Federated December comps rose by 4.4%, that was only half the size of the 8.5% increase put up the month before. Ditto Target, where December same-store sales rose by 4.1%, well behind a 5.9% increase in November. Kohl's comps rose by 3.0%, lagging the 3.7% increase of the month before.

Federated did couch the outcome in a positive way: “While December sales were somewhat softer than expected, we overcame unseasonably warm weather in most of the country and ended the month strong. Performance in former May Company stores improved in December from the October/November trend,” said Terry Lundgren, Federated ceo.

“Home merchandise categories showed continued progress in December, although the business remained weak in former May Company locations,” Lundgren added.

Apart from Federated, few retailers had anything to say about home fashions, and those who did said business was soft.

As in recent months, stores with the strong value proposition of upscale brands at good prices trumped the everyday-low-price merchants like Wal-Mart. Leading the group of retailers tracked each month by HTT was Costco with its 9.0% December comp increase, withTJXnot far behind with a 6.0% gain.

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