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Soft Home a Factor in August Gains

James Mammarella, Staff Staff -- Home Textiles Today, September 17, 2007

Retailers entered the back-to-school season with relatively sound comparative store sales gains for August, and some reported glimmers of improvement in their soft home departments. Among the 17 publicly traded retail chains tracked by Home Textiles Today, results were mixed, channel to channel — but the value-price segment still outdid the department store operators, as has been true for much of 2007.

While Macy's registered a healthy 2.4% comp uptick, JCPenney comps fell 4.0% and Dillard's were off 5.0%.

Predictably, the off-price tier reported solid gains, with both TJX and Ross Stores seeing a 4.0% rise, joined by Sam's Club.

Target convincingly outdid its big rival Wal-Mart, topping most gainers at 6.1%, and bested only by Duckwall-ALCO, the much smaller rural general merchandiser.

The least pep of all was reported by Gottschalks and Stein Mart — two chains that have attempted fixes of their soft home departments, apparently to no avail.

"Home and apparel are expected to continue improving into the fourth quarter," said Eduardo Castro-Wright, president and ceo of Wal-Mart Stores U.S. The company said August saw increased sales "in domestics, including bedding, bath towels and plastic storage and organization items."

JCPenney presented a mixed bag, avoiding mention of home in its stores — but noting that in its direct-to-consumer division, "August sales benefited from improvement in both soft and hard home categories."

Larry Montgomery, chairman and ceo of Kohl's, praised the 834-store chain's success in juniors', young men's and boys' apparel. But he noted, "Demand in other areas of the business such as home, men's and women's slowed vs. their year-to-date trend."

Tony Buccina, vice chairman and president-merchandising of 278-store Bon-Ton cited "improved performance in both hard and soft home vs. the trend for the spring season" — although these departments were not among those he singled out as having "posted strong gains."

Jim Famalette, chairman and ceo of Gottschalks, noted, "We experienced generally softer than expected sales in our home store merchandise and certain soft line categories, particularly in our stores in California."

Pointing to pets and stationery as leading categories, ceo Michael Hayes of discounter Fred's added that "men's apparel, domestics, lawn and garden, small appliances, food, and pharmacy departments also performed better in August."

Three-quarters of the 52 retailers tracked in the Johnson Redbook Same-Store Sales Index reported positive comps for August. The overall gain was 3.0%, showing steady improvement from the 2.2% gain in June and a 2.8% uptick in July. Year-to-date, the Index has shown a 3.1% comp improvement.

Winners and Losers
Same-store sales % change

Winners
Duckwall-ALCO 7.7
Target 6.1
Ross Stores 4.0
Sam's Club 4.0
TJX Cos. 4.0
Wal-Mart 2.8
Macy's 2.4
Costco 2.0
Losers
Gottschalks -7.8
Stein Mart -5.2
Dillard's -5.0
JCPenney -4.0
Kohl's -0.6


AUGUST SALES FOR KEY RETAILERS
Four weeks ended September 1a(dollar amounts in millions)

2007 sales 2006 sales Total % chg. Same-store % chg.
a. Reporting periods vary from chain to chain.
b. Duckwall-ALCO: period ended Aug. 26.
c. Wal-Mart: period ended Aug. 31.
d. Costco: for the 52 weeks (full fiscal year).
e. Family Dollar: 52 weeks (full fiscal year).
BJ's Wholesale Club $661.7 $622.2 6.4 1.4
The Bon-Ton Stores $228.3 $225.0 1.5 1.3
Costco $4,840.0 $4,560.0 6.0 2.0
Dillard Dept. Stores $537.0 $556.7 (4.0) (5.0)
Duckwall-ALCO b $37.4 $34.2 9.5 7.7
Family Dollar $494.4 $478.3 3.4 1.0
Fred's $129.0 $124.2 4.0 1.7
Gottschalks $42.9 $47.4 (9.6) (7.8)
J.C. Penney $1,563.0 $1,581.0 (1.1) NA
Dept. stores $1,361.0 $1,386.0 (1.8) (4.0)
Catalog/e-commerce $202.0 $195.0 3.6 NA
Kohl's Corp. $1,223.4 $1,142.6 7.1 (0.6)
Macy's $1,788.0 $1,724.0 3.7 2.4
Ross Stores $461.0 $410.0 12.0 4.0
Stein Mart $92.5 $95.7 (3.3) (5.2)
Target Corp. $4,707.0 $4,218.0 11.6 6.1
TJX Cos. $1,400.0 $1,300.0 7.0 4.0
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. c $28,222.0 $25,825.0 9.3 3.0
Wal-Mart Stores $18,157.0 $16,836.0 7.8 2.8
Sam's Club $3,344.0 $3,148.0 6.2 4.0
International $6,721.0 $5,841.0 15.1 NA
30 WEEKS YEAR-TO-DATEa
BJ's Wholesale Club $4,921.1 $4,587.3 7.3 2.8
The Bon-Ton Stores $1,674.5 $1,533.5 9.2 NA
Costco d $63,060.0 $58,960.0 7.0 6.0
Dillard Dept. Stores $3,949.1 $4,078.4 (3.0) (4.0)
Duckwall-ALCO $272.5 $261.5 4.2 2.4
Family Dollar e $6,834.3 $6,394.8 4.8 0.9
Fred's $995.9 $948.0 5.0 1.4
Gottschalks $329.6 $344.4 (4.3) (3.1)
JCPenney $10,304.0 $10,039.0 2.6 NA
JCPenney stores $8,849.0 $8,552.0 3.5 1.1
Catalog/e-commerce $1,455.0 $1,487.0 (2.2) NA
Kohl's Corp. $8,384.7 $7,640.5 9.7 2.1
Macy's $13,602.0 $13,649.0 (0.3) (0.6)
Ross Stores $3,316.0 $3,037.0 9.0 2.0
Stein Mart $799.4 $796.8 0.3 (2.0)
Target Corp. $32,497.0 $29,678.0 9.5 4.8
TJX Cos. $9,900.0 $9,200.0 8.0 4.0
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. c $207,287.0 $191,215.0 8.5 2.8
Wal-Mart stores $133,297.0 $125,451.0 6.3 2.6
Sam's Clubs $25,178.0 $23,530.0 7.0 3.8
International $49,012.0 $42,234.0 16.0 NA


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