Retailers Report Mixed Catalog, Sales Results for July

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Several major retail and catalog companies released financial results yesterday that offered a mix of economic news for the sector:

Federated Department Stores reported total sales of $1.087 billion for July, down 6.4 percent from $1.161 billion in the same period last year. The Cincinnati-based company said the decrease in July sales partially reflected the downsizing of its Fingerhut catalog unit and the closing of the Stern's division. Same-store sales were down 4.2 percent for the month. Federated will report its second-quarter earnings on Aug. 15.

Talbots Inc. saw comparable store sales rise 7.4 percent for July. The Hingham, MA, company attributed the better-than-anticipated increase to the sale of clearance items. Total company sales for the month increased 13 percent to $106.6 million from $94.6 million in July 2000.

Talbots reported an 8 percent increase in second-quarter sales, with comparable store sales increasing 1.8 percent over the previous year. Sales for the second quarter were $384.3 million, up from $356.5 million last year. Talbots' catalog sales were up 5 percent to $49.8 million from $47.3 million in the year-ago quarter.

The Sharper Image saw sales drop 10 percent in July to $23.2 million from $25.9 million last year. July 2000 sales had increased 46 percent from July 1999. Total store sales for the month fell 20 percent to $14.6 million from $18.1 million in the year-ago period. Same-store sales dropped 26 percent. Internet sales fell 15 percent to $2.8 million from $3.3 million in July 2000. The only increase for the San Francisco-based retailer came from catalog sales, which increased 31 percent to $5.9 million from last July's $3.3 million.

The company reported a 1 percent total sales increase for the second quarter to $80.2 million from $79.5 million in the same period last year. Total store and same-store sales fell 9 percent and 14 percent, respectively. Like the July report, the only increase came in catalog sales, which rose 40 percent to $21.8 million.

The Spiegel Group posted a 10 percent decrease in sales for July. Sales fell to $160 million from $178.7 million in July 2000. The Downers Grove, IL, company saw sales decline 2 percent at Eddie Bauer, 14 percent at Newport News and 22 percent at Spiegel. Retail store sales declined 1 percent for the month. Direct sales fell 17 percent, with e-commerce increasing 46 percent and catalog sales dropping 26 percent. Total sales dropped 5 percent to $1.446 billion in the 30 weeks that ended July 28.

Sears, Roebuck and Co. also found July to be a challenging month as total domestic store revenue fell 2.5 percent to $2 billion. Same-store revenue decreased 3 percent. The Hoffman Estates, IL-based retailer said increased sales in appliances were offset by drops in most other categories.

JCPenney reported that clearance and promotions drove same-store sales above expectations, with a 2.2 percent increase for July, from $929 million to $935 million. The Plano, TX, company said catalog sales fell 23.7 percent to $209 million because of weak consumer demand and later distribution of the fall/winter catalog. Internet sales, which are included with catalog results, were $18 million, up $3 million from a year ago.

JCPenney will release second-quarter results on Aug. 14.

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