Holiday Boost in Internet Sales Brings Good Cheer to Retailers

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Though many multichannel merchants didn't receive the strong holiday sales they wished for, there was an unexpected gift under the tree for several retailers reporting December results yesterday: a big boost in Internet sales.

"We saw particularly strong Internet sales compared to last year," Talbots chairman/president/CEO Arnold B. Zetcher said in a statement about December's results, adding that the company's overall results were as expected.

The Hingham, MA-based apparel retailer's sales for fiscal December, the five weeks ended Dec. 31, totaled $222.8 million, a 3 percent gain over last year. Comparable-store sales increased 1.1 percent for the month.

Sales for rose 26 percent in December while J.C. Penney Company Inc.'s comparable department store sales increased just 2.2 percent for the five weeks ended Dec. 31. The Plano, TX-based retailer also said overall sales totaled $3.256 billion in December, a 3.1 percent gain over last year. Catalog/Internet sales climbed 4.3 percent in the period to $417 million.

Other companies reporting results:

* The Neiman Marcus Group Inc., Dallas, posted an 11.1 percent revenue gain for the five weeks ended Dec. 31, totaling $650 million. Comparable revenue in the specialty retail stores segment, which includes Neiman Marcus stores and Bergdorf Goodman, increased 5.3 percent. Comparable revenue in the direct marketing segment rose 25.4 percent in the period.

* JoS. A. Bank Clothiers Inc., Hampstead, MD, generated a 34 percent jump in net sales for the fiscal month ended Dec. 31, totaling $91.1 million. Comparable-store sales increased 20.7 percent and combined catalog and Internet sales rose 34.1 percent.

* Sears Holdings Corp. saw domestic comparable-store sales decline 11.9 percent at Sears stores for the nine weeks ended Dec. 31. Kmart comparable-store sales inched up 1 percent in that period.

* Sharper Image Corp. said sales dropped 9 percent in the calendar month ended Dec. 31 to $150.2 million. Comparable-store sales decreased 15 percent while catalog/direct marketing sales fell 26 percent to $16.9 million. The only bright spot was Internet sales, which increased 10 percent to $27.2 million.

* Federated Department Stores Inc., Cincinnati, said sales totaled $5.708 billion for the five weeks ended Dec. 31, an increase of 99.9 percent. Federated's total sales include the May Company acquisition, which was completed Aug. 30. On a same-store basis, Federated's sales were up 3.4 percent. For the November-December period, same-store sales rose 1.1 percent.

* Nordstrom Inc., Seattle, posted a 10.7 percent increase in preliminary sales for the five weeks ended Dec. 31, totaling $1.16 billion. Same-store sales rose 7.7 percent.

* Limited Brands, Columbus, OH, generated total net sales of $1.911 billion for the five weeks ended Dec. 31, a 5 percent gain. Comparable-store sales rose 3 percent for the month.

* Abercrombie & Fitch Co., New Albany, OH, had a 41 percent jump in net sales for the five weeks ended Dec. 31, totaling $525.9 million. December comparable-store sales increased 29 percent.

* Chico's FAS Inc., Fort Myers, FL, reported sales of $172.6 million for the five weeks ended Dec. 31, a 34.3 percent increase. Comparable-store sales gained 16.4 percent.

Reporting results Wednesday was The Bombay Company, Fort Worth, TX, which posted a 6.4 percent drop in revenue for the five weeks ended Dec. 31 to $100.5 million. Same-store sales declined 3.5 percent.

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