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Home a driver for many in February, when off-pricers reined - again

New York - The home business for many key retailers in February helped drive healthy comp gains during a traditionally slow month - especially at off-pricers.
Ross Stores and TJX Cos. - each posting 9.0% comp increases for the four-week period ended Feb. 25 - were tied for first place in HTT's monthly chain sales chart of 10 major national retailers who include soft home goods in their merchandise mixes.
At The TJX Companies Inc., the Marmaxx division saw an 8% comp increase, buoyed by a 7% comp gain in home fashions. HomeGoods posted a strong 14% comp - "and it's terrific to see HomeGoods' tremendous momentum continue," said Sherry Lang, svp, investor and public relations.
In Canada, the company's Winners and HomeSense stores posted a combined comp of 6%, making TJX "pleased with the trends we are seeing in our Canadian business," Lang added.
Ross Stores' vice chairman and ceo Michael Balmuth said the company's February same-store sales "were well ahead of our expectations."
The second-best comp results were posted by Costco and Target, each with 7.0% gains.
Target said both its sales and traffic were stronger than expected, and the discounter also experienced "a solid increase in transaction size," said Gregg Steinhafel, chairman, president and ceo. "We're very pleased with the pace of our sales since the holiday season, though we continue to plan for a first-quarter comparable-store sales increase of around 4%."
Comparable-store sales in Target's home business increased in the low single-digit range, with the strongest performance in housewares and the softest performance in decorative home.
Also exceeding its own expectations in February was Macy's with its 4.6% comp, said Terry Lundgren, chairman, president and ceo. Here, home was also a driver.
Online sales - for and combined - were up 31.3% for the month, and are included in the same-store sales calculation for the company.
With its monthly sales spurred by increases in housewares, small appliances and furniture, among others, Duckwall-ALCO reported a 1.1% comp, said president and ceo Rich Wilson.
Tied for February's smallest comp increase, at 0.7% each, were Bon-Ton Stores and Stein Mart.
The "strongest sales" performances at Stein Mart stemmed from home as well as accessories, petites and men's furnishings in February; for Bon-Ton, the month's best categories included hard home as well as furniture; shoes, ladies' better sportswear; and cosmetics.
As it had expected, Kohl's February results included a 1.1% sales increase and a 0.8% decline in comps.
Fred's fared worse, as its comparable store sales, "which we forecasted to be flat for the month, came in slightly below expectations, with most of the shortfall in the lawn-and-garden department as it contended with wet weather and a shift in advertising circular at the end of the month," said ceo Bruce Efird.


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