Thursday, March 5, 2009

Apparel Sales Continue To Suffer Despite Overall Industry Increase

U.S. retailers reported their same-store sales for February and the results were better than expected.

Reports show overall retail industry same-store sales increased 0.3%, beating analysts' predictions of a decline of 1.3%, according to Thomson Reuters. The increase was due to Wal-Mart clobbering expectations by posting a 5.1% same-store sales increase, as well as retailers controlling inventory.

A few retailers beat Wall Street estimates by either posting gains, or posting declines that were less than expected. Aeropostale reported an 11% increase in same-store sales which was higher than the 6.9% increase analysts predicted. Gap Inc. said sales fell 12%, beating estimates of a15.4% decline. Limited Brands Inc., the parent company of Victoria's Secret, dropped 7% which was better than analysts' estimate of a 7.6% drop.

So, is this a sign that the apparel sector is beginning a turnaround? Not necessarily. Despite these bright spots, reports show that apparel was down 5.6% and department stores declined 9% compared to the previous year.

Macy's Inc. reported same-store sales down 8.5% for February, more than the 7.3% analysts predicted but within management's expectations. However, online sales -- which include and -- increased 16.2%.

Luxury retail continues to struggle the most as a result of consumers opting for food and necessities instead of discretionary items like high end clothing. The International Council of Shopping Centers reports February same-store sales for luxury stores dropped 19.2% compared to a 0.1% drop of all the chains it monitors.

Saks Inc. was the worst performer in the sector with a 26.8% drop in same-stores sales in February, experiencing weakness across all merchandise categories, particularly women's apparel. Eveningwear, fragrance, women's and men's accessories and their OFF 5TH stores showed relative strength for the month.

February same-store sales for Neiman Marcus tumbled 20.9% with weakness in across all regions and merchandise categories.

Nordstrom, Inc. reported February sales decline 15.4%, more than the 13.6% drop analysts predicted.

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