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October Kind to Retail Sales

New York —With cold weather settling in across much of the nation, driving sales of winter clothing and warmth-related products, same-store retail sales shot up during October, fueling hopes for a decent Christmas season despite high gas and heating oil prices.

The Johnson Redbook Index, which tracks the performance of 74 major retailers, said same-store sales for October climbed unexpectedly by 4.4 percent, following a 4 percent gain in September and a 3.7 percent increase in August. October sales, said Redbook, were higher than the 3.8 percent gain recorded a year ago.

Although the month got off to a sluggish start — hurt by hurricanes and hampered by warm weather which dulled seasonal sales in other parts of the country — cooler weather jump-started sales in the back half of the month and helped most retailers beat their sales targets.

Not surprisingly, discounters recorded the strongest results among general merchandise retailers, with results at department stores mixed. As they have throughout most of the year, luxury retailers posted strong gains. The surprising consumer turnout helped to float even some of the leakiest boats, with laggards like Dillard's and Retail Ventures recording strong gains, up 8 and 6.7 percent respectively.

Reflecting strength at the price-point extremes, tops for the month in the HTT sample were warehouse giant Costco and carriage trade purveyor Saks Fifth Ave., each with a gain of 10 percent. The rest of the leader board was made up of value retailers, Ross, Sam's and Retail Ventures, all up more than 6 percent. Still gaining strength and extending its turnaround this year was Kohl's, with sales up 6.2 percent.

Department store sales were hit and miss. While Dillard's came up with an 8 percent gain, Federated missed the mark, slipping 0.7 percent, apparently held in check by results at the May Department Stores unit.

WINNERS and LOSERS

WINNERS
Costco 10.0%
Saks Fifth Ave. 10.0
Dillard's 8.0
Ross Stores 7.0
Sam's Clubs 6.7
Retail Ventures 6.7
LOSERS
Pier One -10.4%
Pamida -7.4
Hancock Fabrics -6.3
The Bon-Ton -2.2
TJX -2.0
Gottschalks -1.4


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