Tough retail month as chains' sales sputter
May 10, 2004,
Following at least three months of healthy retail gains, chain sales in April sputtered, with many merchants recording modest gains at best, and some coming in below expectations.
Much of the blame for the lackluster results fell on cooler than expected spring weather, particularly in the Northeast, along with a quirk of the calendar that pushed Easter into March's results. Rising gasoline and food prices were also blamed for grabbing consumers' dollars.
Retail leaders for the month included chains that have been struggling but now are beginning to go up against softer comparisons from last year.
Saks Department Store Group led the monthly samestore gains with a 10.6 percent rise to $284 million, while corporate parent Saks registered a more modest rise of 7.6 percent in comparable stores. It was also the only retailer that still mentioned soft home as a key mover, along with men's furnishings, accessories, women's better and moderate sportswear and cosmetics. Children's juniors' apparel lagged, the company said.
Costco Wholesale was also near the top of the retail pack scoring a 10 percent same store gain, slightly exceeding analysts' expectations. April sales increased to $3.56 billion, but even that increase disappointed and came largely because of the weak dollar.
Sam's Club's 8.3 percent comparable unit gain came off of a year of rebuilding and was tempered by Wal-Mart's lower-than-expected 4.4 percent same-store sales gain for the month. Sam's produced sales of $2.7 billion during April, while its corporate parent recorded $20.8 billion in sales.
Likewise, Stein Mart followed with a 6.7 percent comparable store increase for April, and Federated and BJ's Wholesale Club posted 5.4 percent gains.
Women's apparel and accessories fueled the gain at Federated, which chairman, president and CEO Terry Lundgren said he was pleased with.
"We have been diligent in focusing on our four priorities …," Lundgren said. "I believe a consistent and effective focus on these key priorities is responsible in large part for the stronger sales we are seeing across the company."
Still, Lundgren forecasted May sales to be flat against last year, reflecting a shift in sales to June because of a late Memorial Day holiday. Second quarter same-store sales are expected to be in the 2 to 3 percent range, he said.
At BJ's, president and CEO Mike Wedge said the increase was due in large part to food (8 percent) and a 1 percent gain in general merchandise sales.
JCPenney's department stores recorded a 5.3 percent same store gain for the month, rising to $1.1 billion as the company prepares to jettison its Eckerd division.
The company currently expects May sales for both comparable department stores and catalog/Internet to be up in the low single digits.
TJX Cos., which operates such doors as TJMaxx, Marshall's and HomeGoods, recorded a 5 percent comparable stores gain for April, to $1.1 billion. The company said the results were in line with expectations.
"We remain comfortable in our ability to achieve first quarter earnings per share that are slightly above the range we anticipated at the outset of the quarter, which represents a significant increase over last year's results," said Ted English, president and CEO.
|BJ's Wholesale Club||5.4|
April sales for major retailers
Total chain sales, including all merchandise departments, for period ending 05/01/04a
sales in $millions
|Company||2004 sales||2003 sales||Total % change||Same-store % change|
|BJ's Wholesale Club||$505.3||$456.3||10.7||5.4|
|Dillard Dept. Stores||$542.4||$536.5||1.1||1.0|
|May Dept. Stores||$901.5||$967.4||-6.8||-7.5c|
|Pier 1 Imports||$129.9||$120.6||7.7||-1.7|
|Value City Dept. stores||$110.3||$116.3||-5.2||-5.3|
|Sears U.S. sales||$1,938.2||$1,994.0||-2.8||-1.8|
|Wal-Mart Stores Inc.||$20,765.0||$18,592.0||11.7||4.4e|
|13 weeks to date|
|BJ's Wholesale Club||$1,611.0||$1,437.4||12.1||6.6|
|Dillard Dept. Stores||$1,854.4||$1,813.9||2.2||2.0|
|May Dept. Stores||$2,962.9||$2,872.6||3.1||2.5c|
|Pier 1 Importsd||$298.4||$270.7||10.2||1.2|
|Value City Dept. stores||$339.1||$342.9||-1.1||1.1|
|Sears U.S. sales||$6,050.7||$6,144.7||-1.5||-0.2|
|Wal-Mart Stores Inc.||$66,058.0||$58,272.0||13.4||5.6e|
|a: Reporting periods vary from store to store.|
|b: Nine weeks ending May 1, 2004|
|c: Excludes 19 stores scheduled to close|
|d:Year-to-date for two month period|
|e: Total U.S. stores|
|f: For the 35 weeks ended May 2, 2004|
|g: For the four weeks ended May 2, 2004|
|h: Excludes Elder-Beerman store, which had comparable declinesof 12.9 percent and 2.9 percent, respectively.|