Retailers Report Upbeat Sales for February

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Many catalogers and retailers posted better than expected sales yesterday for the month of February, signaling that the economy continues to rebound from the recession.


Among the winners:


Sharper Image, San Francisco, reported a 98 percent leap in catalog sales, to $8.7 million from $4.4 million in February 2001. The company attributed the huge jump to a recent infomercial campaign. Company founder Richard Thalheimer said response to the infomercials contributed more than half of the increase. Retail sales increased 16 percent to $14.6 million, and Internet sales were up 23 percent, to $3.6 million. Total company sales rose 35 percent, to $26.9 million.


Intimate Brands, Columbus, OH, which owns Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works, saw store sales increase 1 percent and total sales increase 3 percent to $349.6 million from $338.1 million a year ago. The company does not break out monthly catalog sales.


It was a mixed report for JC Penney Co. Inc., Plano, TX. While the company had a 12.5 percent increase in sales at department stores open at least a year, catalog sales plummeted 28.7 percent, to $196 million from $275 million in February 2001. Total February sales increased 3 percent, to $2.29 billion.


Spiegel Group, Downers Grove, IL, reported a 13 percent sales decline, to $156.6 million from $180 million. Catalog sales dropped 11 percent, though online sales were up 27 percent. Retail store sales fell 16 percent. By division, Eddie Bauer's sales dropped 13 percent; Newport News fell 16 percent; and Spiegel catalog was down 10 percent.


Talbots, Hingham, MA, saw sales fall 10 percent, to $84.1 million from $93.6 million last year. Blaming its performance on clearing out Christmas items, comparable store sales dropped 18 percent. The company does not break out monthly catalog sales.


Sears, the nation's No. 2 retailer, saw domestic same-store sales fall 3.1 percent, while overall sales declined 1.2 percent to $1.9 billion. A sharp drop in clothing sales more than offset gains in electronics and appliance sales, the retailer said.


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