Jos. A. Bank's sales surged 9.2% in Sept.

its stock rises nearly 10%

Tailored apparel strong for men's clothing chain

October 11, 2002|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,SUN STAFF

Driven by strong demand for tailored apparel, sales rose 9.2 percent last month at Hampstead-based Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc.

The men's apparel retailer, which reported monthly sales yesterday along with most national retail chains, beat many of its competitors in the percentage increase in sales at stores open at least a year.

U.S. retail sales rose, on average, 1.5 percent, according to a tally of 79 chains by Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi Ltd.

Yesterday, Bank's shares rose $1.76, nearly 10 percent, closing at $19.52.

At Bank, the 9.2 percent increase in same-store sales shows that the specialty menswear chain has grabbed market share from competitors, one analyst said.

"It's just a continuation of a trend where [Bank] is taking market share from department stores and other chains, such as Men's Wearhouse," said Michael M. Via, an analyst with Anderson & Strudwick Inc. in Richmond, Va.

In contrast to Bank's same-store sales gain, sales at Men's Wearhouse Inc. rose 2 percent last month, the retailer reported yesterday.

Bank, a chain of 152 stores, can be more nimble than some rivals in reacting to consumer demand and keeping the hottest-selling merchandise in stock, Via said.

"They control the product from start to finish, with no middleman," he said. "They're judging the consumers' taste rather well."

Bank reported that total sales for the month that ended Oct. 5 rose 16.9 percent to $21.5 million, compared with $18.4 million in September last year. Combined catalog and Internet sales rose 19.4 percent, the retailer said.

Sales of suits, shirts and ties were especially strong, said Robert N. Wildrick, Bank's chief executive officer. Suits have increased as a percentage of the business over the past two months and account for more than 30 percent of the retailer's business.

"One of the trends we've seen this year was a stabilization of suit sales, which had been declining for four or five years," said David E. Ullman, Bank's chief financial officer. "Now we're starting to see an increase in suit sales," as some large companies, such as Bear Stearns & Co., recently have reinstated more formal dress codes.

Also, shoppers are becoming more aware of the Bank brand as the chain continues opening stores and becomes more visible in the marketplace, Ullman said. The retailer has opened 17 stores this year and plans to open eight more by Dec. 31

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