Retailers report lackluster sales in Sept. Warm weather, death of Diana blamed

women's apparel down

Retail

October 10, 1997|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,SUN STAFF

Those warm, late September days brought less than exciting sales results for many retailers last month, particularly those selling women's apparel.

While the department stores generally continued to report same-store sales increases of between 1 percent and 3.5 percent, the specialty stores found September difficult.

The Bloomberg retail index grew by 2.5 percent last month, compared with a healthy 5.7 percent increase in August.

"It was a combination of too much warmth and the death of [Princess] Diana," said Alan Millstein, editor of the Fashion Network Report. "It was a catastrophic event which directly affected people going out to malls and shopping."

Instead of shopping, consumers sat in front of their television sets and watched the news and the funeral, he said.

Department stores generally produced results consistent with other months. Federated Department Stores Inc. said its same-store sales rose 2.7 percent.

Kmart Corp.'s sales were up 3.1 percent and Sears, Roebuck and Co. reported a modest 1.5 percent rise.

The May Department Store Co., which owns the Hecht Co., fared worse, with only a 0.5 percent increase.

J. C. Penney was down 7.3 percent.

Same-store sales are considered a key indicator of the financial health of a retailer because they factor out store closings and openings.

The portions of the industry that have been most volatile recently women's apparel -- reported negative results. Ann Taylor Stores Corp. said its same-store sales decreased 13.9 percent for the five weeks ended October.

And Talbot's was down 4.7 percent.

Other analysts have interpreted the sales results as a further indication of a slowing down of the retail sector.

"This could mean that the consumer is going to slow down for the second half [of the year]," said Howard Davidowitz, chairman of Davidowitz & Assoc., a retail consulting firm.

Davidowitz said he doesn't believe that the warm weather on the East Coast affected sales across the country, and he believes the drop in September does not bode well for the Christmas holiday season.

"I think people are putting their money in the stock market and mutual funds," he said.

@Monthly retail sales

....................... Monthly .......... ....... YTD

.................. Monthly .same-store .. YTD .. ..same-store

Company .......... sales* . pct. change . sales* ..pct. change

Best Buy ......... NA ......... NA

Circuit City ..... NA ......... NA

Dayton Hudson .... $2.269 ..... 3.1% .... $16,263 .... 3.8%

The Gap .......... $648 ....... 6% ........ $3.821 ... 3%

J. C. Penney ..... $2.55 ..... -7.3% ..... $17.8 ...... .4%

Kmart ............ $2.702 ..... 3.1% .... $20,149 .... 5.3%

Kohl's Corp. ..... $268.4 ..... 1.5% ..... $1,748 .... 9.7%

The Limited ...... $763.5 .... -7% ....... $5,296 ... -2%

Lowe's ........... $985.1 ..... 2% ....... $6,967 .... 4%

May Dept. Stores.. $1,088 ..... 0.5% ...... 7,261 .... 3.3%

Sears ............ $3,695 ..... 1.5% .... $25,412 .... 2.1%

Wal-Mart ........ $10,722 ..... 4.3% .... $73,764 .... 5.9%

*In millions

Pub Date: 10/10/97

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