• Andrea Lillo

Home heats up chain sales in Feb.

New York — With the start of a brand new fiscal year, several retailers have a positive sales outlook as well, as sales momentum from the end of fiscal 2001 continued, with same-store sales growing 4.6 percent over last year for U.S. retail chains.

February also saw the home category become hot for retailers across distribution channels.

Pier 1 Imports led the retailers for comp-store gains with 17.2 percent. "February was a very strong month, with sales momentum building each week," said Marvin Girouard, chairman and ceo. "All indicators of our business remain strong. We are excited to have completed a remarkable fourth quarter and believe that this trend will continue well into our fiscal year."

Domestics at the discounters proved productive for February. Wal-Mart said that domestics in its Wal-Mart division was among above-average categories for the month, and the division saw comp-store sales gains of 11 percent, well above its original forecast. Total company sales benefited from a strong Valentine's Day holiday, the Winter Olympics, an earlier Easter and early spring weather, the company said.

At Target Corp.'s Target Stores division, home was one of the best performers for the month, with overall inventories in excellent condition. "Sales for the corporation were well above plan in February, primarily due to exceptional strength at Target Stores," said Bob Ulrich, chairman and ceo.

TJX Companies' MarMaxx division, which includes T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, saw home fashions jump by 11 percent for the month and had an overall comp-store increase of 7 percent. TJX had total sales growth of 16 percent, with impressive gains in its individual divisions, including comp-store gains of 13 percent for Winners in Canada, 11 percent for HomeGoods, and 9 percent for T.K. Maxx in Europe. But the leader was clearly A.J. Wright, its off-price chain, with a dramatic 31 percent comp-store spike.

Domestics also shined at warehouse club Costco, showing an significant 9 percent sales gain.

Department stores also experienced success with home, including Target Corp.'s Mervyn's division and Elder-Beerman. The category at Dillard's led in merchandise performance for the month with a climb of 1 percent.

Retailers showing negative comp-store sales were generally department stores, though JCPenney produced a strong 12.5 percent jump, significantly above plan. Its catalog sales, however, were below plan, with a 28.7 percent decline. The company said that catalog sales continue to be impacted by the elimination of unprofitable events.

Several retailers continued to focus on inventories. "While overall sales remain soft, we continue to be very pleased with our inventory position as well as gross margin and expense performance," said Sears chairman and ceo Alan Lacy.

Jim Famalette, president and ceo, Gottschalks, said, "We are maintaining our focus on inventory management and our cost containment initiatives. The improvement in our comp-store sales is encouraging to us in light of the current economic conditions."

Several retailers said that the month's mixed weather negatively impacted sales. Stein Mart, which with this month has begun reporting monthly sales numbers, saw strong sales for the first three weeks in Oklahoma and parts of Texas, which were slowed by the weather at the end of the month.

Hancock Fabrics, reporting a 6.3 percent increase in comp-store sales, said that, despite weather disruptions in the first and fourth weeks in the period, consumers remain active throughout the store, particularly in the home decorating area.

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HTT Current issue for September 2017

See the September 2017 issue of Home & Textiles Today. In this issue, we look at the Attack of the Killer Third Tier: Monster off-pricers are climbing to the top of the food chain, plus New Products: 40 pages of new products debuting at the New York Home Fashions Market; Home Stores: TJX unveils first U.S. HomeSense store; Clicks to Bricks: Boll & Branch moves from digital to physical retailing; and much more... See details!