(Filed Under Financial and General Interest News). Compared with the 2008 season’s dismal results, the December 2009 holiday season was a merry one indeed for many a retailer. According to Thomas Reuters, the industry overall experienced a 2.9 percent increase from last year’s numbers last month, exceeding the 2 percent jump analysts had projected, and marking the best overall sales performance since April 2008.
Reuters reported that discount retailers, who have seen the strongest sales in the industry throughout the economic downturn, reported a growth of 3.9 percent, the highest by sector. The TJX Companies, Inc—which includes TJ Maxx and Marshall’s stores—was the winner in this sector, with comparable store sales jumping 14 percent from the flat sales achieved last season. Kohl’s also performed well, with comparable sales up 4.7 percent. JCPenney Company, Inc. saw these sales drop 3.8 percent, an improvement over the 8.1 percent comparable store sales decrease seen last year. Target Corporation reported a surprise comparable store sales increase of 1.8 percent.
Mid-tier Macy’s, Inc., which also owns the better department store Bloomingdale’s, cited an increase of 1 percent. Gap, Inc. reported a 2 percent increase, with Old Navy, up 7 percent, its highest performing division.
Luxury retailers, who have suffered during the downturn, also noted promising results, with comparable store sales up 9.9 percent at Saks, 7.4 percent at Nordstrom, and 4.5 percent at Neiman Marcus. This indicated that consumers were more willing to pay full-price for product than they have been in several months.
Although Limited Brands, Inc. saw a modest decrease of 2 percent in comparable store sales, the lingerie, swimwear and apparel giant said these results were better than it had expected. As a result of exceeded expectations in both sales and merchandise margin rates, the company raised its fourth quarter 2009 earnings guidance to between 92 and 97 cents per share, compared to its previous guidance of between 71 and 86 cents per share.
But despite success for most, some retailers continued to see dwindling sales. Hot Topic and Abercrombie & Fitch, both marketed toward the teen market, saw-lower-than expected sales. Hot Topic’s comparable store sales declined 10.9 percent, causing the retailer to lower its guidance for the fourth quarter of 2009 to reflecting a comparable store sales decline of between 10 and 12 percent. Abercrombie & Fitch cited a 19 percent decline.
But these promising results do not mean that we have recovered fully from the recession yet. According to Reuters, retail watchers said that December’s success does not indicate a full recovery, since this requires a stronger job market, and that sales numbers may drop as the year progresses.
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