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THE ECONOMY : Holiday Season Brought Few Good Tidings to Clothes Sellers

From Times Wire Services

The verdict on 1994 Christmas shopping: Retailers of jewelry, electronics and items for the home prospered, but many apparel stores had a season to forget.

Many of the women’s clothing merchants that did manage to attract sales were forced to make steep markdowns to get the business. Industry analysts assessing the store owners’ December figures said fourth-quarter profits for some companies could suffer.

“The trend the sales showed in December pretty much reflected the year to date: strong gains of sales for hard lines, continued weakness in demand for soft lines,” said Janet Mangano, an analyst with Burnham Securities Inc.

Hard-line merchandise includes electronics, appliances and other items for the home; soft-line goods include apparel.

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Sears, Roebuck & Co., which reported strong sales of hard lines, was one of the month’s strongest performers. But apparel companies such as Limited Inc. and Charming Shoppes Inc., whose sales flagged all year, again posted disappointing results for December.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the nation’s largest retailer, said sales from stores open at least a year rose 6.8% over December, 1993, and that total sales were up 22%.

Sales from stores open at least a year, known as same-store sales, are considered the most accurate measure of a retailer’s strength. They exclude the results of newer stores, where sales tend to be unusually high, and of stores closed in the past year.

Kmart Corp. said same-store sales rose 3.5% and that overall business was up 1.6%.

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Sears’ same-store sales gained 7.9% and saw an overall increase of 8%.

Dayton Hudson Corp. said same-store sales rose 3.7% and that overall business was up 9.6%. Sales at the company’s Target discount chain were strong, but its Mervyn’s clothing chain reported weaker-than-expected results, Chairman Bob Ulrich said.

J.C. Penney Co. said same-store sales at its flagship stores rose 5.4% and that total sales, including those for its drugstore and catalogue operations, rose 5.3%.

May Department Stores Co. reported a 4.5% same-store sales gain and an 8.3% increase overall.

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Broadway Stores Inc., which operates the Broadway, said same-store sales rose 2.4% and that overall sales were up 1.6%. Federated Department Stores Inc. said same-store sales rose 2.2%. The company did not provide a percentage for its overall sales increase; its total business includes the newly acquired Macy’s and Bullock’s stores.

Same-store sales dropped 4% for Limited, but overall business rose 6%.

Charming Shoppes said same-store sales slipped 8% and that overall business was off 1%.


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