Hechinger Co., the Landover-based home improvement chain, announced yesterday that it posted a respectable 4 percent gain in same-store sales during December.
Although the increase failed to make up for all its losses from the year before, analysts described the result as positive and Hechinger's stock surged. But John Hechinger Jr., president and chief executive of the company, did not sugar-coat the news.
"Our 4 percent comparable-store sales increase for December reflects a comparison to a disappointing December of 1990, in which comparable-store sales were down 7 percent," he said in a statement.
"While comparable-store sales were positive this December, we
continue to operate in a difficult retail environment."
The comparable-stores figure, which includes those stores open least a year, is regarded as the best indicator of a retailer's performance.
Budd Bugatch, director of institutional research at Ferris Baker Watts in Baltimore, took a positive view. "It's a decent performance in a very difficult retail climate," he said.
Hechinger's Class A common stock rose $1.50 a share, to $14.125, in trading yesterday, but Michael L. Mead, a Legg Mason regional analyst, cautioned not to read too much into the jump.
"The market seems to be searching around for stocks that haven't participated in the rally and looking for any reason for them to participate," he said.
Overall sales totaled $137.6 million, up 14 percent from $120.7 million a year ago.
Comparable-store sales for the 11 months that ended Dec. 31 were up 1 percent from a year before, indicating that the company closed 1991 on a stronger note than its performance earlier in the year.
Total sales for the 11 months rose 15 percent, to $1.5 billion.