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Upscale Retailers, DM Drive Holiday Sales

Upscale and specialty retailers saw strong gains in November, thanks to big increases in catalog and Internet sales, while department stores like Sears and JC Penney reported drops from last year's numbers.

Sharper Image Corp., San Francisco, said November's comparable-store sales were up 8 percent, catalog sales up 18 percent and Internet sales up 24 percent. For the month, total company sales rose 22 percent.

The Internet and catalog shone for Sharper Image with its year-to-date sales. Internet sales increased 39 percent while catalog climbed 16 percent to help boost the company's total sales 25 percent.

“We opened six new stores in November. Consumers appear to be in good spirits. We are pleased with the excellent sales start to the holiday selling period,” Sharper Image founder/CEO Richard Thalheimer said in a statement.

Likewise, Nordstrom Inc., Seattle, reported a 10.2 percent increase in its November sales. Year-to-date same-store sales rose 3.2 percent, while total year-to-date sales increased 7.5 percent.

At Saks Inc., Birmingham, AL, November same-store sales rose 6.7 percent while total sales grew 7.6 percent.

Also, Neiman Marcus Group Inc., Dallas, reported record first-quarter results this week for the 13 weeks ended Nov. 1. The company said its total revenue was up 12 percent and net earnings were up 97 percent. Sales for Neiman Marcus Direct, which includes its catalog and Internet operations, rose 8.9 percent, and operating earnings were up 43 percent.

Fort Worth, TX, said total sales grew 10.3 percent for November, though same-store sales rose only 1.1 percent.

Among those that didn't fare as well were Sears, Roebuck and Co., Hoffman Estates, IL, which said same-store sales dropped 3.6 percent in November and total sales were down 3.2 percent.

JC Penney Inc., Plano, TX, saw same-store sales drop 0.8 percent for November, though its results did not include the Thanksgiving holiday week. But Penney said its catalog and Internet sales jumped 11.7 percent.

Federated Department Stores Inc., Cincinnati, said same-store sales were down 0.1 percent and that total sales fell 0.8 percent. Year to date, the company's total sales dropped 1.8 percent, while same-store sales also were down 1.8 percent.

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