November Sales Bring So-So Tidings

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With the holiday selling season under way, the first round of numbers from many retailers and direct marketers was released yesterday as they posted November sales. The news, both good and bad, was often attributed to a store's promotional activity, or lack of it.

J.C. Penney Company Inc., Plano, TX, reported yesterday that sales increased 9.2 percent in the four weeks ended Nov. 27 for a total of $1.8 billion. Same-store sales rose 12.1 percent in the period. The chain saw record sales for the two days following Thanksgiving, driven by strong promotional programs, the company said. J.C. Penney's catalog/Internet sales decreased 4.1 percent in the month, totaling $284 million. Internet sales alone increased more than 20 percent.

Sears, Roebuck and Co., Hoffman Estates, IL, said that domestic store revenue totaled $2.51 billion for the four weeks ended Nov. 27, up 1.9 percent from last year. Same-store sales climbed 2.8 percent.

"Despite sluggishness early in the month, we enjoyed particularly strong customer response to our enhanced promotional events and had record sales the day after Thanksgiving," Sears chairman/CEO Alan J. Lacy said.

Other companies reporting results yesterday:

· Nordstrom Inc., Seattle, generated sales of $667.6 million in the four weeks ended Nov. 27, up 6.2 percent from the same period last year. Same-store sales increased 3.1 percent.

· Casual Male Retail Group Inc., Canton, MA, saw a 26.5 percent jump in sales in the four weeks ended Nov. 27, totaling $34.8 million. With the sale of its Levi's Dockers outlet stores, the completion of which was announced Nov. 29, Casual Male now will report only sales from its big and tall divisions. Also, comparable-store sales rose 3.7 percent.

· Limited Brands, Columbus, OH, said net sales totaled $762.7 million for the four weeks ended Nov. 27 compared with $785.6 million last year. Same-store sales fell 5 percent.

· Abercrombie & Fitch, New Albany, OH, posted a 17 percent increase in net sales for the four weeks ended Nov. 27. Sales totaled $188 million, up from $161.2 million last year. Comparable-store sales rose 2 percent. The company said that it did not repeat two holiday promotions from last November.

· Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc., Hampstead, MD, said sales for the fiscal month ended Nov. 27 totaled $36.1 million, a 22 percent increase from last year. Same-store sales rose 7.5 percent while combined catalog and Internet sales gained 16.6 percent.

· The Talbots Inc., Hingham, MA, reported that sales for the four weeks ended Nov. 27 totaled $130.5 million, a 4 percent increase from last year. Same-store sales decreased 0.5 percent.

· Federated Department Stores Inc., Cincinnati, saw sales drop 1.6 percent for the four weeks ended Nov. 27. Sales totaled $1.43 billion. On a same-store basis, sales dipped 1.4 percent.

· Sharper Image Corp., San Francisco, said sales for the calendar month ended Nov. 30 totaled $78.9 million, a 17 percent gain over last year. Same-store sales dropped 3 percent. Catalog/direct marketing sales totaled $21.5 million, up 19 percent. Internet sales alone rose 30 percent to $14.1 million.

· Reporting results Wednesday was The Bombay Company Inc., Fort Worth, TX, which said total revenue fell 7 percent for the four weeks ended Nov. 27. Sales totaled $57.7 million. Same-store sales declined 13 percent. The company attributed disappointing sales to a lack of promotional activity.

· Reporting results Tuesday was Chico's FAS Inc., Fort Myers, FL, which said sales totaled $88.7 million for the four weeks ended Nov. 27, up 28 percent from last year. Comparable-store sales increased 8.6 percent.


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