Thursday, January 7, 2010

Merchants' December sales results: Comparatively jolly?

A host of chain retailers released their December sales results today. The overriding message: "Better than our really low expectations!" Of course, that was merchants' hope going into the 2009 holidays - that they'd be at least a little better than woeful 2008, the worst holiday shopping season in 40 years. The sales results - at least thus far - appear to bear it out, suggesting that shoppers spent at least a little bit more than in 2008, if not a lot. A fuller sense of how the season stacks up both nationally and locally will emerge in the coming weeks and months.

It still seems unclear precisely what this means heading into 2010, other than perhaps "shop-pocalypse averted." Others were taking a somewhat rosier view; MarketWatch had
a story today headlined "Santa delivers for U.S. retailers." How did your favorite stores fare? Well, see for yourself in this report from consultants Retail Forward - and tell me if it squares with what you saw and spent last month.

Among the highlights and lowlights: Aeropostale (10 percent), Ross (12 percent) and T.J. Maxx (14 percent) saw the biggest gains in year-over-year December sales among apparel stores, at stores open a year or more. Charlotte-based Cato saw same-store sales rise 7 percent. Among department stores, the biggest gainer was Saks, which operates the Off 5th outlet at Concord Mills and has its closest full-line store in the Triangle. Its same-store sales rose 10 percent. Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Kohl's also saw gains; Macy's was up 1 percent, while Dillard's and J.C. Penney saw December same-store sales declines. Charlotte-based Belk doesn't release monthly sales.

Laggards on the list included teen mall-punk staple Hot Topic (same-store sales down 10.9 percent, in part due to more competing stores selling "Twilight" merchandise) and pricey preppy purveyor Abercrombie & Fitch (down 19 percent) which has been socked for months amid more value-oriented competition.

On another interesting note that speaks to the variety of competition stores face beyond other bricks-and-mortar outlets, more than half of all households shopped for holiday gifts this season at - an eight-percentage-point gain from 2008, according to Retail Forward. Of course, Amazon has long since gone far beyond books to offer a vast range of merchandise, making it fairly easy one-stop shopping - and far from a challenge to meet the $25 threshold for its free shipping offer. Semi-indulgent case in point: My Amazon order this Christmas included two pie crust shields, two CDs, an architecture book and a book of crossword puzzles (hi, mom!) - all ordered and paid for at one time.


Anonymous said...

Regarding Saks, Charlotte was supposed to get a full-line store at AugustaLee (Village at Lake Norman) but as far as I know that project's fallen through.