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Chains fight the grinch who might steal season

With the holiday selling season well underway, some retailers had a merry start to the season and their home businesses, while others did not get what they wished for.

Warehouse clubs, such as Costco and BJ's, along with other retailers such as Target Corp. and Saks Inc., were the month's leaders in comparable store sales.

Wal-Mart had the biggest single-day sales in its history on Black Friday, pulling in more than $1.52 billion at its domestic units. For the month, Wal-Mart recorded $21.657 billion, an increase of 11.2 percent. The Wal-Mart division had sales of $14.764 billion, and comps of 3.7 percent, while Sam's Club had $2.842 billion in sales, and comps of 4.7 percent.

Saks Inc. reported a 6.7 percent comp store increase, while the Saks Department Store Group had a 4.2 percent climb. Home and furniture were also among the strongest categories for the month.

Ross Stores also saw a five percent same store sales increase, as well as robust sales gains in its home businesses, the company said.

"We are pleased with the solid start to the holiday season during November," said Michael Balmuth, vice chairman and ceo.

"Sales at Target Corp. were above plan in November, reflecting stronger-than-expected sales growth at Target Stores," said Bob Ulrich, chairman and ceo. "While we are pleased with these early holiday results, December is typically a much more significant contributor to our fourth quarter financial performance."

Domestics had strong results at Target Stores last month, while the home was weak at Mervyn's.

Others, however, saw a different story.

With a 4.4 percent decrease in comps, Kohl's blamed the month's mild weather for the first three weeks, resulting in significantly depressed traffic levels.

"Cold weather broke in the last week and a strong start to holiday selling resulted in a high single digit comparable store sales increase in the final week of the month," said Larry Montgomery, ceo. However, home, along with kids and accessories, outperformed for the month.

Sears posted sales declines of 3.2 percent on an overall basis and 3.6 percent on a comp store basis. The home fashions and household goods category slid in the high single digits.

"Overall spending at the beginning of the season has been more subdued than expected with our balance of promotional activity greater than anticipated," said Alan Lacy, chairman and ceo.

TJX believes it will see a later start to the holiday selling season in both apparel and home. The MarMaxx group had a same store sales slip of two percent, while home fashions also had a two percent drop. Its other divisions saw increases: The HomeSense and Winners division in Canada gained 30 percent (nine percent in local currency), HomeGoods, up three percent, T.K.Maxx, up 12 percent (five percent in local currency) and A.J. Wright, up seven percent.

Sales did not meet expectations at The Bon-Ton, with a decrease of 1.8 percent. "The retail environment remains extremely competitive and our customer remains cautious, with price being a critical component of their decision process," said James Baireuther, vice chairman and chief administrative officer. "As a result, our promotional efforts will be more aggressive throughout the remainder of the holiday shopping period to provide our customer exceptional value as we focus on key items and price points."

JCPenney had a slight comp department store decrease of 0.8 percent, while catalog and Internet sales jumped 11.7 percent for the period, which did not include the Thanksgiving holiday week. Internet sales alone leaped 45 percent. Home was one of the strong performers of the month for the company overall.

Dollar General also cited domestics as one of the strongest merchandise categories for the month, while the home area at Dillard's performed above the company average.

Pier 1 Imports saw its comps increase 1.1 percent, with expected softness the weekend after Thanksgiving due to a planned shift in the emphasis of the promotional activity from Thanksgiving to Christmas.

"We were not overly promotional during the quarter, and merchandise margins remained strong throughout the period," said Marvin Girouard, chairman and ceo.

TOP 3
Company % chg.
Costco 14.0%
BJ's Wholesale 8.4
Target Stores 7.4
BOTTOM 3
Company % chg.
Dillard's -6.0%
Stein Mart -4.7
Kohl's- 4.4


November sales for major retailers
Total chain sales, including all merchandise departments, for period ending 11/29/03a
sales in $millions

Company 2003 sales 2002 sales Total % change Same-store % change
a: Reporting periods vary from store to store.
b: The Bon-Ton sales include sales from its Elder-Beerman division.
c: For the period ending November 30.
d: For the period ending November 28.
e: For the period ending November 22.
f: May Department Stores' comp store sales include the 32 remaining stores in previously announced that it will divest. when adjusted to exclude these stores, the comp store sales decreased 1.2 percent for the month and 4.2 percent for the year to date.
BJ's Wholesale Club $564.7 $499.9 13.0 8.4
The Bon-Tonb $141.2 $73.9 91.1 (0.7)
Costcoc $3,790.0 $3,230.0 17.3 14.0
Dillard Dept. Stores $574.0 $613.6 (6.5) (6.0)
Dollar Generald $575.3 $522.4 10.1 1.7
Family Dollar $402.6 $366.0 10.0 0.7
Federated $1,460.0 $1,471.0 (0.7) (0.1)
Gottschalks $67.1 $68.7 (2.3) 0.0
Hancock Fabrics $43.6 $44.7 (2.5) (2.9)
JCPenneye $2,825.0 $2,817.0 0.3 NA
Dept. stores $1,384.0 $1,415.0 (2.2) (0.8)
Catalog/e-commerce $296.0 $265.0 11.7 NA
Jo-Ann Stores $180.0 $181.6 (0.9) (0.2)
Kohl's Corp. $1,187.8 $1,086.7 9.3 (4.4)
May Dept. Storesf $1,260.8 $1,258.6 0.2 (1.7)
Pier 1 Imports $170.9 $155.0 10.3 1.1
Retail Ventures $254.0 $238.1 6.7 2.2
Value City Dept. stores $160.1 $160.6 (0.3) (0.4)
Ross Stores $364.0 $316.0 15.2 5.0
Saks Inc. $617.5 $574.1 7.6 6.7
Dept. stores $365.9 $351.1 4.2 3.7
Sears U.S. sales $2,464.7 $2,546.4 (3.2) (3.6)
ShopKo $286.8 $288.4 (0.6) (0.4)
ShopKo stores $215.1 NA (1.7) (1.7)
Pamida $71.7 NA 3.3 4.0
Stein Mart $137.0 $143.6 (4.6) (4.7)
Target Corp. $4,414.0 $3,937.0 12.1 6.2
Target $3,781.0 NA 14.1 7.4
Mervyn's $339.0 NA (0.3) (1.5)
Marshall Field's $218.0 NA (1.4) (0.1)
TJX Cos. $1,269.0 $1,150.0 10.3 1.0
Wal-Mart Stores Inc.d $21,657.0 $19,471.0 11.2 3.9
Wal-Mart stores $14,764.0 $13,326.0 10.8 3.7
Sam's Club $2,842.0 $2,646.0 7.4 4.7
43 weeks to date
BJ's Wholesale Club $5,256.3 $4,547.7 15.6 8.0
The Bon-Tonb $615.9 $545.8 12.8 (1.8)
Costcoc NA NA NA NA
Dillard Dept. Stores $5,873.9 $6,136.7 (4.3) (4.0)
Dollar Generald $5,500.0 $4,900.0 12.2 4.0
Family Dollar NA NA NA NA
Federated $11,671.0 $11,889.0 (1.8) (1.8)
Gottschalks $505.6 $527.2 (4.1) (1.7)
Hancock Fabrics $360.0 $354.4 1.6 1.7
JCPenneye $25,616.0 $25,615.0 0.0 NA
JCPenney stores $11,294.0 $11,514.0 (1.9) (0.4)
Catalog/e-commerce $2,110.0 $2,105.0 0.2 NA
Jo-Ann Stores $1,361.0 $1,338.0 1.7 2.7
Kohl's Corp. $7,908.0 $7,022.5 12.6 (1.6)
May Dept. Storesf $10,109.8 $10,375.9 (2.6) (4.4)
Pier 1 Imports $1,313.0 $1,233.8 6.4 (2.0)
Retail Ventures $2,127.8 $2,010.1 5.9 1.1
Value City Dept. stores $1,214.9 $1,223.3 (0.7) (0.4)
Ross Stores $3,186.0 $2,883.0 10.5 0.0
Saks Inc. $4,673.4 $4,616.5 1.2 0.6
Dept. stores $2,769.9 $2,753.6 0.6 (0.3)
Sears U.S. sales $21,769.6 $22,178.5 (1.8) (2.4)
ShopKo $2,517.9 NA (2.0) (1.9)
ShopKo stores $1,872.9 NA (3.4) (3.4)
Pamida $645.0 NA 2.2 2.9
Stein Mart $1,087.0 $1,144.0 (5.0) (6.7)
Target Corp. $35,982.0 NA 9.2 2.4
Target $30,886.0 NA 11.6 4.0
Mervyn's $2,669.0 NA (7.4) (7.9)
Marshall Field's $1,917.0 NA (4.8) (3.7)
TJX Cos. $10,578.0 $9,712.0 8.9 1.0
Wal-Mart Stores Inc.d $203,969.0 $183,277.0 11.3 3.8
Wal-Mart stores $138,342.0 $125,045.0 10.6 3.7
Sam's Clubs $27,822.0 $25,625.0 8.6 4.6


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