Back to School Gets Low Grades From Retailers

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Several major retailers cited Hurricane Charley, the Labor Day weekend occurring fully in September and an unenthusiastic back-to-school season as reasons for poor to middling August sales results.

The news continued to be bad for Sears, Roebuck and Co., Hoffman Estates, IL, which yesterday reported total domestic store revenue of $1.91 billion, down 7.1 percent, for the four weeks ended Aug. 28, 2004. Comparable-store sales fell 6.1 percent in August. Part of the problem was "softer than expected back-to-school sales," chairman/CEO Alan J. Lacy said in a statement.

The news was more upbeat for J.C. Penney Company Inc., Plano, TX. The multichannel retailer reported total sales of $1.54 billion, a 4.3 percent gain over last year, for the four weeks ended Aug. 28. Same-store sales rose 3.8 percent for the month. Also, catalog/Internet volume gained 6 percent, and Internet sales alone increased more than 35 percent.

Other companies reporting results yesterday included:

· The Talbots Inc., Hingham, MA, experienced a 1 percent dip in sales for the four weeks ended Aug. 28 compared with the year-ago period. Total August sales were $86.8 million. Comparable-store sales fell 4.6 percent.

· Sharper Image Corp., San Francisco, generated revenue of $43.3 million, up 16 percent, for the calendar month ended Aug. 31. Same-store sales for the month fell 6 percent. The catalog/direct marketing area posted a 19 percent rise in August sales, reaching $11.1 million. Internet sales alone increased 35 percent to $6.2 million.

· Casual Male Retail Group Inc., Canton, MA, reported a 1.9 percent rise in sales for the four weeks ended Aug. 28, totaling $21.8 million. Same-store sales increased 1.8 percent.

· The Neiman Marcus Group, Dallas, saw total revenue rise 14.8 percent to $240 million in the four weeks ended Aug. 28. Comparable revenue at Neiman Marcus Direct increased 2.5 percent.

· JoS. A. Bank Clothiers Inc., Hampstead, MD, produced a 25.3 percent jump in sales for the fiscal month ended Aug. 28, totaling $21.8 million. Comparable-store sales rose 6.4 percent. Combined catalog and Internet sales increased 35.1 percent.

· Chico's FAS Inc., Fort Myers, FL, reported sales for the four weeks ended Aug. 28 of $76.9 million, climbing 36.5 percent. Same-store sales experienced a 3.6 percent increase.

· Abercrombie & Fitch, New Albany, OH, said sales climbed 11 percent to $212.1 million for the four-week period. Comparable-store sales for the month dropped 5 percent.

· Limited Brands, Columbus, OH, reported net sales of $577.8 million for the four weeks, compared with $575.7 million in the year-ago period. A 2 percent dip was posted in same-store sales for the month.

· Federated Department Stores Inc., Cincinnati, said sales for the four weeks fell 2.7 percent to $1.047 billion compared with that period last year. On a same-store basis, sales for the month were down 2.4 percent.

· Nordstrom, Seattle, generated sales of $431.7 million for the four weeks, an 8.2 percent gain over last year. Same-store sales increased 7.2 percent.

· Reporting Wednesday was The Bombay Company Inc., Fort Worth, TX, which stated that total revenue declined 6 percent to $35.4 million for the four weeks. Same-store sales declined 19 percent.

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