Sears, Spiegel Struggle Through May

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Many retailers posted double-digit sales improvements yesterday, but two industry giants reporting negative results dampened the news.

Sears, Roebuck and Co., Hoffman Estates, IL, said comparable-store revenue fell 3.7 percent in the four weeks ended May 29 while total domestic store revenue was $2.08 billion, down 4.7 percent compared with last year. Year to date, the total is down 2.4 percent to $8.13 billion.

The company attributed the drop to the shift of Memorial Day to the June sales month from May 2003 "combined with a slackening in consumer demand across most categories."

The Spiegel Group, Downers Grove, IL, continued its downward spiral, posting net sales of $109.3 million for the four weeks ended May 29, plunging 28 percent from $150.9 million last year. For the year, total sales declined 21 percent to $536.1 million. Comparable-store sales for Spiegel's Eddie Bauer division dropped 7 percent in the four weeks and 2 percent for the 21-week period.

Spiegel Group's direct net sales, which include catalog and e-commerce, fell 7 percent for the month because of a planned reduction in catalog circulation.

Other companies reporting earnings included:

· Abercrombie & Fitch, New Albany, OH, saw net sales of $111.5 million in the four-week period, up 20 percent over last year. For the month, comparable-store sales increased 1 percent.

· Sharper Image Corp., San Francisco, said company sales increased 18 percent to $51.4 million while total store sales improved 19 percent to $30.3 million. Comparable-store sales rose 1 percent. Also, total catalog/direct marketing sales jumped 18 percent to $13.8 million, and Internet sales improved 11 percent to $7.3 million.

For the year, company sales ballooned 30 percent to $204.1 million as store sales climbed 24 percent to $111.7 million. Total catalog/direct marketing sales improved 34 percent to $58.9 million while Internet sales skyrocketed 45 percent to $33.5 million.

· The Talbots Inc., Hingham, MA, said company sales for the four weeks increased 10 percent to $127.6 million. Comparable-store sales were up 8.1 percent. Year-to-date sales improved 7 percent to $546.6 million.

· Nordstrom Inc., Seattle, posted preliminary sales of $499 million in the four weeks, up 11.7 percent. Same-store sales increased 9.4 percent.

· Chico's FAS Inc., Fort Myers, FL, reported a 50.7 percent jump in sales for the four weeks to $90.2 million. Comparable-store sales were up 17.9 percent. For the year, total sales improved 51.6 percent to $347 million. Comparable-store sales for company-owned stores rose 19.5 percent.

· Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc., Hampstead, MD, said total sales for May increased 22.4 percent to $26.2 million. Comparable-store sales rose 6.4 percent as combined catalog and Internet sales improved 25.5 percent. Total sales for the year were up 26.8 percent to $106.1 million. Comparable-store sales increased 11.8 percent while combined catalog and Internet sales climbed 20.5 percent.

· J.C. Penney Co. Inc., Plano, TX, generated a comparable department store sales increase of 9.1 percent in the four weeks while catalog/Internet sales were even with last year at $179 million. The company said its Chris Madden line of home decor and furnishings, launched in early May, will be in catalogs later this month. The department stores segment produced sales of $1.04 billion for the four weeks. For the year, department stores improved 8.3 percent to $4.45 billion while the catalog/Internet segment was up 4.7 percent to $804 million.

· Federated Department Stores Inc., Cincinnati, produced total sales of $1.17 billion in the four weeks, up 3.3 percent. On a same-store basis, May sales rose 2.9 percent. For the year, sales reached $4.69 billion, up 5.9 percent.

· Limited Brands, Columbus, OH, saw a comparable-store sales increase of 3 percent in the four weeks. Net sales totaled $641.4 million. For the year, sales were up 6 percent to $2.62 billion.

Reporting late Wednesday was The Bombay Company Inc., Fort Worth, TX, which said revenue dropped 5 percent to $37.4 million. Same-store sales for stores open more than a year fell 16 percent. The company said sales were hurt by the timing of the Memorial Day holiday.


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