June: A bad month, but better than expected

New York – Many retailers saw their sales and comps tumble last month. Indeed, only four retailers tracked by HTT reported positive sales at the end of June. However, several other retailers said their sales exceeded expectations, and as a result raised their quarterly outlook or their July forecast or both.

B.J.’s Wholesale Club turned in the strongest performance among HTT’s chain sales tracker, with comps up 7.5%. Food led the way, with sales up 6% while general merchandise sales fell 3%.

TJX Cos. also had a better month than most, with both sales and comps rising 4%. Home comps were up 2% at MarMaxx Group, where total comps rose 3%. HomeGoods had a very strong month, with comps up 10%.

“We saw strong increases in customer traffic across our divisions as the extreme values we offer customers continue to resonate despite the challenging economic environment,” said Carol Meyrowitz, president and ceo of TJX. “Our strategies of running the business with lean inventories and buying close to need are serving us well by enabling us to flow fresh selections of exciting fashions and brands to our stores.”

Ross Stores exceeded plan, with sales climbing 6% and comps up 1%. The performance of the home department was not mentioned in company remarks about the month.

“We believe that our ongoing focus on delivering fresh and exciting bargains continues to resonate with today's increasingly value-oriented consumers,” said Michael Balmuth, vice chairman, president and ceo.

Fred’s 1% sales gain and flat comp (up 0.5%) were in the range of the company’s prior guidance, noted Bruce Efird, ceo.

“As noted last month, we anticipated that June would provide the toughest sales comparison of the year for us, recognizing how the year-earlier month was buoyed by spending driven by economic stimulus checks,” he said. “Importantly, over the past two years we have experienced an average increase in comparable store sales of 3.4%, as our performance initiatives continue to translate into increased traffic, pharmacy growth, and market share expansion. We know our customers and communities face rising unemployment and the tough economic environment, which makes Fred's value-shopping solution all the more relevant to consumers in these challenging times."

Although Kohl’s sales and comp both fell last month – down 1.5% and 5.6%, respectively –  “June sales again exceeded our expectations,” according to Kevin Mansell, president and ceo. Home and accessories were cited as the strongest categories.

Domestics and housewares were among the few general merchandise bright spots at Costco, although the aggregate comp for home declined in the low double-digits, according to Bob Nelson, vp of finance and investor relations. The company also closed its two Costco Home stores on July 3, he said. The company’s total comp store decline of 6.0% was driven by declining gasoline prices and the impact of currency exchange rates. Traffic counts actually rose 4.5% in June, said Nelson.

Soft home was also a best performing business during an otherwise difficult month at The Bon-Ton Stores, where comps fell 8%. Reduced clearance merchandise sales accounted for over half the decline, said Tony Buccina, vice chairman and president. “We are on schedule to receive back-to-school and transitional fall merchandise, along with new home assortments for our July semi-annual Home Sale,” he said.

At Dillard’s, however, home was “significantly below trend” along with furniture, the company said. Total comps fell 14%.

The Johnson Redbook Same-Store Sales Index for the month decline 5.1% following a 4.6% drop in May and a 0.5% gain in April. Among the retailers tracked by the firm – which include apparel specialty stores as well as general merchandisers – 79% post negative results. Only one – Aeropostale – generated a double-digit gain.

Home & Textiles Today Staff | News & Commentary

 Home Textiles Today is the market-leading brand covering the home and textiles markets, offering a comprehensive package of print and online products. Home & Textiles Today provides industry news, product trends and introductions, exclusive industry research, consumer data, store operations solutions, trade show news and much more.

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