Good — Not Great — Holiday Shopping Season

Back on December 1, I mentioned that "Holiday sales increases can be in the 3 to 4% range." This modestly Bullish call was at the very low end of Wall Street projections.

The prime motivation for that range was the decreasing gasoline prices post Katrina, and the love affair with Plasma Screen TVs (that was the good news). Keeping the Bullishness modest was the negative real income for the middle class; on the other end, the increasing take home pay for the ultra wealthy supported the relative strength of the luxury retailer.

The WSJ reports that "overall, Retail Sales rose 3.2%." And, the big winners were the luxury stores. Its a pleasant surprise anytime projections like this end up that accurate.

I also wish to remind you (again) how the silly NRF projection of 22% was; Their absurdity was a statistical abomination (and they were chastised in this space for it)

Here’s the Journal’s summary:

Holiday shoppers spent big on a few products last month, but held out for last-minute deals, resulting in mixed performances from U.S. retailers. Cash registers rang at luxury retailers and teen specialty shops, but sales at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. disappointed.

Overall, sales at stores open at least a year, a measure known as same-store sales, rose 3.2% in December from a year earlier, according to an index of 66 chains compiled by the International Council of Shopping Centers. The trade group, based in New York, had expected same-stores sales growth between 3% and 3.5%. According to the tally, same-store sales at luxury stores grew 6.4%, while discounters ticked up just 2.6%.

"All combined it was good, not great," said Jeff Klinefelter, senior research analyst at Piper Jaffray. "When we finally got the last-minute rush, it was the higher-end consumer that followed through with spending."


Luxury Stores Were Holidays’ Stars
Overall Retail Sales Rose 3.2%, Slowed by Discounters; Holdout Shoppers Also Hurt
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL,January 6, 2006; Page A2

Mixed Stockings for Retailers

See the WSJ’s retailer chart here:

The WSJ:   DECEMBER RETAIL SALES: Mixed Stockings for Retailers

Holiday shoppers spent big on a few products last month, but held out for last-minute deals, resulting in mixed performances from U.S. retailers. Here’s a look at how a selection of major retailers performed. Updated Jan. 6, 2006. Note: Several major retailers don’t report monthly sales numbers.

Company name Category Same-store
sales change
Abercrombie Teen retailer 29.0% Has largely avoided deep discounting; says preview of spring collection also helped
Aeropostale Teen retailer 11.4% Assortment, "creative sales promotions" put sales, gross margins above goals
AnnTaylor Clothing retailer 1.5% Sales were somewhat lower than expected at namesake chain; sweaters did well
Barnes & Noble Book seller 2.3% Biography, history segments did well; individual standouts included "A Million Little Pieces" by James Frey and "Teacher Man: A Memoir" by Frank McCourt
Best Buy Electronics, computer retailer 5.8% Triple-digit comparable store sales gain in flat-panel TVs
Circuit City Electronics, computer retailer 10.8% "Significant strength" in flat-panel TVs, MP3 players, notebook computers
Federated Department Stores Department store 3.4% Pleased with Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s despite New York transit strike
Gap Inc. Clothing retailer -9% Weak traffic at Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy; but fewer markdowns than last year
Guess? Jeans, clothing seller 17.5% Total sales for quarter were up 25.6%
Hot Topic Teen retailer -6.2% Weak traffic in first three weeks of December; poor men’s, accessories sales. 
J.C. Penney Department store 2.2% Best performance in women’s accessories, children’s apparel and family shoes
Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Men’s clothing 20.7% "Particular strength" in blazers, sportcoats, sportswear. Strong Internet/catalog sales
Kmart* Discount retailer 1% Higher apparel sales at Kmart were partially offset by a decline in home goods
Kohl’s Clothing retailer 4.6% Last two weeks were good, but November-December period was below its hopes
Limited Brands Clothing retailer 3% Victoria’s Secret was strong; but Limited was hurt by weak sales of pants and sweaters
Men’s Wearhouse Men’s clothing 8.1% U.S. sales increases outpace Canada
Neiman Marcus Department store 8.6% Women’s contemporary sportswear and designer apparel, jewelry, performed well
Nordstrom Department store 7.7% Strong sales of women’s shoes, cosmetics, accessories and menswear
Payless Shoesource Shoe retailer -1.5% December results hurt by stronger than expected November sales
Pier 1 Imports Specialty retailer -4.8% Early period sales were weak but improved during the last two weeks of December
Sears* General, home-improvement, appliances -11.9% Apparel sales were poor, reflecting "weaker-than-anticipated customer response to fashion offerings."
Sharper Image Gadgets seller -15.0% Its key air purifiers and massage chairs continued year-over-year declines in sales
Talbots Women’s clothing 1.1% Internet and gift-card sales have improved
Target Discount retailer 4.7% "Pleased" with results, "comfortable" with outlook, inventory in good shape
TJX Clothing retailer 6.0% Parent of T.J. Maxx and Marshalls saw sales surge during the week of Christmas.
Urban Outfitters Clothing retailer 6.0% Urban Outfitters chain’s sales were "robust, but Anthropologie, up just 2%, was "below plan"
Wal-Mart Discount retailer 2.2% Weak results mean fourth-quarter profit will come in at low end of its projection
Walgreen Drugstore chain 6.2% Pharmacy sales drive increase
Wet Seal Teen retailer 38.5% "Very pleased" with strong sales; says is 12th straight same-store sales rise
Wilsons The Leather Experts Leather goods retailer -7.7% Improvement in margins is expected to offset some of sales weakness
Zumiez Action-apparel retailer 20.9% Raises earnings guidance

* Sears and Kmart figures are for nine-week period ended Dec. 31. Both are both units of Sears Holdings Corp.

Source: Dow Jones Newswires, the companies


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  1. cm commented on Jan 7

    I think somebody has disregarded the birth/death effect and missed all those new stores! (Smiley withheld.)

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