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Retailers Post Mixed Results for November

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The nation’s retailers Thursday reported mixed sales results for November, with merchants that carry moderately priced goods faring well, while upscale stores largely suffered from consumers’ continuing economic and employment fears.

The results, analysts said, underscore a growing realization that the holiday sales season won’t be a total disaster for retailers--as some had feared. But Terence McEvoy, a retail industry analyst at Janney Montgomery Scott in Philadelphia, said it won’t be anything “to write home about"--especially for full-service, full-price department stores and luxury gift and fashion retailers.

Among those reporting strong sales gains in November were Wal-Mart, Pic ‘N’ Save, ClothesTime and Gap. Dayton Hudson Corp., operator of Mervyn’s, Target, Dayton’s and Hudson’s stores, and May Department Stores Co., operator of Robinson’s and May stores, reported sales declines.

Retailers, who traditionally count on the holiday season for nearly half their sales and profits, have lowered expectations. Many have embarked on aggressive discounting to lure reluctant consumers into their stores.

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Overall, many analysts expect 1991 holiday sales--a combination of November and December results--to rise between 2% and 4% over 1990 levels, a performance that would basically keep pace with inflation.

However, analysts caution that the national figures mask the decline in the California economy, which was hit late by the recession and remains mired in a web of layoffs in its key industries and services.

In a report released Thursday, the State Board of Equalization said taxable sales in California declined nearly 5% in July, August and September, compared to the same period in 1990. It was the second consecutive quarter that the state’s taxable sales declined from those of the prior year.

The Board of Equalization, which collects the state’s 7-cent sales tax, said taxable sales for the most recently reported 1991 quarter totaled $67.7 million, 4.6% below those of the comparable period in 1990. In the prior quarter, taxable sales fell 5.2% from the year before, the largest drop in three decades.

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Among the national retailers, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the country’s largest store operator, continued to outpace competitors, posting a 13% increase in same-store sales and a 39% rise in overall sales. (Analysts prefer to measure same-store, or comparable-store, sales because they offer a truer picture of a retailer’s performance by factoring out business generated by stores opened within the last year.)

Other retailers’ results included:

* Sears, Roebuck and Co. said its same-store sales were up 2% and its overall results 0.8%.

* Dayton Hudson Corp. said its same-store sales dropped 3.6%, while overall sales rose 2.7%.

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* J. C. Penney Co. said its same-store sales were up 0.1%, while overall sales gained 1.2%.

* May Department Stores Co. reported a 5.4% drop in same-store sales and a 1.7% overall slide.

* Gap Inc. said its same-store sales rose 8%, while overall results were up 24%.

* Kmart Corp. said sales at its stores open at least a year were down 2.1%, while business at all of its stores rose 3.2%.

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* Pic ‘N’ Save said its same-store sales rose 15.3%, while its overall sales rose 14%.

* ClothesTime said its same-store sales rose 18%, and its overall business increased 26%.


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