High-End Retailers Show Strong Holiday Gains

A merry Christmas, indeed. That appeared to be the result of the holiday shopping season as a last-minute rush helped U.S. retailers to their biggest December gains since 1999.

Luxury stores led the way, outperforming discount and department stores.

The Neiman Marcus Group celebrated with a 15 percent increase over last year's numbers. Comparable revenue ballooned 27 percent in the recently concluded period at Neiman Marcus Direct, which operates catalog and online operations under the Neiman Marcus, Horchow and Chef's Catalog brand names.

Other high-end retailers did well, too. Tiffany & Co., New York, said its net sales for Nov. 1-Dec. 31 rose 18 percent. Direct marketing sales increased 14 percent while Internet/catalog sales climbed 27 percent.

Nordstrom Inc., Seattle, posted a preliminary sales increase of 12.2 percent for the five weeks ending Jan. 3 versus the five weeks ending Jan. 4, 2003.

Saks Inc., Birmingham, AL, said sales were up 6.3 percent for the five weeks ended Jan. 3.

Urban Outfitters Inc., Philadelphia, said direct-to-consumer sales leaped 122 percent from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31 because of “very strong growth at Anthropologie Direct and exceptional growth at Urban Outfitters Direct.” DTC for December jumped 152 percent, and total same-store sales for the two-month period grew 20 percent.

Williams-Sonoma Inc., San Francisco, saw positive results, with net revenue for the eight weeks ended Dec. 28 rising 16.6 percent. Direct-to-customer net sales climbed 28.7 percent, with the Pottery Barn, PBTeen and Pottery Barn Kids brands driving most of the increase.

Sharper Image Corp., San Francisco, saw a sales increase of 30 percent for December. Catalog sales rose 6 percent while Internet sales skyrocketed 34 percent.

JoS. A. Bank Clothiers Inc., Hampstead, MD, said total sales for the fiscal month ended Jan. 3 increased 33.1 percent, with combined catalog and Internet sales up 11.4 percent.

Chico's FAS Inc., Fort Myers, FL, said sales for the five weeks ended Jan. 3 increased 61.1 percent to $91 million from $56.5 million posted in the five weeks ended Jan. 4, 2003.

The Bombay Company Inc., Fort Worth, TX, said total revenue increased 12 percent for the five weeks ended Jan. 4, 2004, though same-store sales were up only 3 percent. Total revenue for the 48-week period increased 21 percent, while same-store sales were up 15 percent.

J.C. Penney Co. Inc., Plano, TX, posted a 4.3 percent rise in comparable department store sales for the five weeks ended Dec. 27, the third consecutive year in which December sales increased more than 4 percent. The company also posted a 5.6 percent gain in catalog/Internet sales.

Limited Brands, Columbus, OH, posted a comparable-store sales increase of 6 percent for the five weeks ended Jan. 3.

Restoration Hardware Inc., Corte Madera, CA, saw same-store sales drop 3.5 percent, though net sales in its direct-to-consumer division rose 40 percent.

Federated Department Stores Inc., Cincinnati, stayed at last year's numbers for the five weeks ended Jan. 3, with total sales increasing just 0.4 percent.

Some DMers had little to celebrate, most notably Spiegel Group, Downers Grove, IL, which saw sales plummet 33 percent for the five weeks ended Dec. 28. The company also said comparable-store sales for its Eddie Bauer division fell 3 percent in the five-week period.

Spiegel's catalog and e-commerce sales plunged 42 percent because of “lower customer demand and a planned reduction in catalog circulation,” the company said.

Sears, Roebuck and Co., Hoffman Estates, IL, said comparable domestic store revenue decreased 0.8 percent for the five weeks ended Jan. 3. But Sears also said its direct-to-customer revenue through Sears.com and LandsEnd.com performed “especially well, with continued solid growth in the buy-online-pick-up-in-store option.”

The Talbots Inc., Hingham, MA, said total company sales for the five weeks ended Jan. 3 slipped 1 percent.

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