Friday, October 08, 1999

Retailers' joy: September

Sales rates surpass projections

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Computers, backpacks and little wool skirts are proving it again: It's a great time to be an American retailer.

        Back-to-school needs and fall fashions lured shoppers into stores last month, pushing sales to expected or above-expected rates. But it isn't as if shoppers need excuses to rush the malls these days. The nation is wrapped in an economics warm-fuzzy, and a strong economy and job outlook are sending shoppers looking for things to buy.

        “Remember the ditty, they shop 'til they drop?” said Kurt Barnard, publisher of Barnard's Retail Trend Report. “Well that's outdated. They shop 'til they shop some more.”

        Retailers in all genres performed well in the month, from discounters to department stores. Worth noting: Dillard's Inc., with a 6 percent increase; Columbus-based Limited Inc., whose same-store sales rose 8 percent; and Target, with an 8.6 percent same-store increase.

        Sales at Dillard's reflect for the first time receipts from Mercantile Stores Co. Inc. Dillard's completed its acquisition of the McAlpin's parent in August 1998 and had to wait a year before including it in same-store sale reports.

Same-store sales
        Same-store sales are receipts from stores open at least a year and are considered one of the best indicators of a retailer's performance.

        Total September sales at Dillard's rose just 1 percent, said Julie Bull, a Dillard's spokeswoman. “To explain ... last year's sales base, on a total basis, includes the ac quired (Mercantile) stores that we subsequently sold to other retailers, so we have a little bit of distortion there.”

        The Bloomberg year-to-date same-store sales index has risen 6.51 percent so far this year compared with last year. Specialty/apparel chains lead with a 9.03 percent increase. The discounter index is up 7.58 percent, and the department store index is up 2.8 percent.

        “(I'm) absolutely spending more money than last year,” said Linda Nadler Sacks, a shopper from Amberley Village whose family owns Nadlers Men's Clothing in Forest Fair Mall. “I think that I'm less reluctant to be conserva tive based on our strong city economy.”

        Retailers with East Coast operations said Hurricane Floyd leveled sales a bit. Cincinnati-based Federated Department Stores reported a sales increase of 3.7 percent and a 4.5 percent same-store sales increase for the year to date. Saks Inc., parent of Saks Fifth Avenue and Parisian, said its same-store sales rose 5 percent, though it estimates sales would have risen 6 percent without the hurricane.

        Elder-Beerman Stores Corp. said its same-store sales rose 6 percent, excluding its shoe division. Elder-Beerman announced an agreement to sell that unit last month.

        Other retail results included: The Gap said same-store sales were up 7 percent, T.J. Maxx-parent TJX Cos. Inc. said its sales rose 7 percent, and Kmart said its same-store sales rose 2.5 percent.


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