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December comps for national chains grim for most

By Tiffany Montgomery
January 08, 2009 7:19 AM

Updated at 10:19 with ICSC results, at the bottom of this post.

National retailers released comp sale numbers for December and the results are grim as expected, except for American Apparel and The Buckle, and to some degree, Urban Outfitters.

PacSun said the "very high rate of markdowns" means fourth quarter profits will be lower than expected. Several other companies also lowered profit estimates because of markdowns, including Macy's and Nordstrom.


Dec. comp sales: down 10 percent

Year-to-date comp sales: down 5 percent

Apparel comps: up 9 percent (88 percent of sales)

Juniors apparel comps: up 23 percent. Bullhead denim and tops were strong.

Guys apparel comps: down 2 percent. Strength in Bullhead denim, weakness in T's and fleece.

Non-apparel comps: down 61 percent (12 percent of sales).

No. of transactions: up mid-single digits

Avg. sale price: down mid teens

Inventories: Down 12 percent per square foot at end of Dec. vs. last year. PacSun will end the year with inventories down 20 percent, more than the high-single digit range previously forecast.

Guidance: Because of markdowns, the company increased its Q4 net loss guidance to 38 cents to 43 cents per share, with 19 cents of the loss attributable to mark down reserves. PacSun had previously forecast a loss of 3 cents to 8 cents per share.

Liquidity: PacSun will end the year with $15 million to $20 million in cash and no direct borrowings under its credit facility.

Total stores: 937

The Buckle

December comp sales: up 13.5 percent - particularly impressive because they were up against a tough 18.7 percent comparison for December 2007.

Year-to-date comps: up 21 percent.

Girls total sales: up 26.5 percent, with strength in denim, knit tops, outerwear, accessories and footwear.

Girls price points: up 5.5 percent

Guys total sales: up 13.5 percent, with strength in denim, woven and knit shirts and outerwear.

Guys price points: up 11.5 percent

Footwear: up 8 percent

Accessories: up 20.5 percent

No. of transactions: up slightly

Avg. transaction value: up 8 percent

No of total stores: 388

American Apparel

December comps: up 3 percent

Fourth quarter comps: up 10 percent

Year-to-date comps: up 22 percent

No. of total stores: 260

Urban Outfitters

Nov/Dec comps companywide: down 1 percent

Urban Nov/Dec comps: up 3 percent

Anthropologie Nov/Dec comps: down 6 percent

Free People Nov/Dec comps: down 13 percent

11 months companywide comps: up 8 percent

Total No. of company stores: 293


December comps: down 4 percent

Nov-Dec comps: down 7.5 percent, worse than the negative 1 to 6 percent forecast.

Year-to-date comps: down 4.6 percent.

Inventories: Ended December with inventories down 7.5 percent vs. last year.

Guidance: High markdowns will lead to lower gross margins. Macy's expects fourth quarter earnings of 90 cents to $1 per share vs. previous guidance of $1.10 to $1.30.

Macy's also said it would close 11 stores after its usual review of underperforming locations. Stores to close:

Ernst & Young Plaza (Citicorp Plaza), Los Angeles,
The Citadel, Colorado Springs, CO
Westminster Mall, Westminster, CO
Palm Beach Mall, West Palm Beach, FL
Mauna Lani Bay Hotel, Island of Hawaii, HI
Lafayette Square, Indianapolis, IN
Brookdale Center, Brooklyn Center,
Crestwood Mall, St. Louis,
Natrona Heights Plaza, Natrona Heights,
Century III Furniture and Clearance, West Mifflin, PA
Bellevue Center, Nashville, TN

No. of stores after closings: 808 Macy's and 40 Bloomingdale's for a total of 848.


Dec comps: down 10.6 percent. Said holiday sales "exceeded expectations."

Year-to-date comps: down 8.9 percent

Strong categories: women's shoes and juniors apparel

Strong regions: South and Northeast

Inventories: Will be in-line with sales trends by end of year.

Guidance: Because of markdown pressure from competitors, the company said it will not meet its previous fourth quarter earnings guidance of 35 cents to 45 cents per share.

Total No. of stores: 169

Abercrombie & Fitch

Company-wide December comps: down 24 percent

Company-wide, year-to-date comps: down 13 percent

Abercrombie & Fitch December comps: down 24 percent

Abercrombie December comps: down 29 percent

Hollister December comps: down 24 percent

Ruehl December comps: down 26 percent

Guidance: The company said an impairment charge and a tax expense will lead to fourth quarter earnings significantly below the $1 to $1.05 per share guidance.

Total No. of stores: 1,121

ICSC chain store comps

December chain store sales dropped by 1.7 percent compared to 2007, and the November-December holiday sales period comps fell by 2.2 percent vs. 2007, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers survey released this morning.

"This was an extraordinarily difficult holiday season," said Michael P. Niemira, ICSC chief economist and director of research.

"Retailers were forced to slash prices to entice consumers to spend," he said. "But even that strategy was not enough as the elevated worry about job insecurity and increased job layoff announcements continued to restrain consumers' willingness and ability to spend," Niemira added.

ICSC surveys sales at 36 national chains.




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