The nation's major retailers Thursday reported mixed sales results for February, the first month of their new fiscal year.
Mass merchandisers such as Sears, Roebuck & Co. and J. C. Penney Co. posted single-digit percentage increases from February, 1984, which many analysts described as "disappointing." The department and specialty store group, however, fared better with double-digit gains from a year ago.
But most firms posted significantly lower increases when the February figures were adjusted to discount results for stores that were open less than 12 months.
In addition, the monthly figures were not totally comparable among retailers because of a difference in the 1985 calendar from a year ago. This past February began one week later in the companies' fiscal years than in 1984, which was a 53-week reporting period. Consequently, some retailers reported February sales on a fiscal calendar-to-calendar basis, while others made year-to-year comparisons.
Analysts Not Too Worried
While many analysts were disappointed with February sales, most were not too worried about the mixed showing. The month typically accounts for less than 5% of a retailer's annual sales, according to Walter Loeb, an analyst at Morgan Stanley & Co. in New York. He said that, despite the month's mixed results, retailers are experiencing real growth since the inflation rate on general merchandise has been running at about 1%.
"In 1985, with continuing low inflation (and) due particularly to the strong dollar and imports, we have to look at sales in a different way than in the past. It is not as bad as it looks" when adjusted to discount inflation, he pointed out.
- Chicago-based Sears, the nation's largest retailer, reported that sales for the four weeks ended March 2 were up 2.4% to $1.45 billion.
- K mart Corp. of Troy, Mich., said February sales, which included for the first time results of its recent Pay Less Drug Stores Northwest Inc. acquisition, were up 14% to $1.31 billion for the four weeks ended Feb. 27. Sales, however, on a store-for-store basis (those stores open for a full year or longer) were up only 3.7% from a year ago.
- J. C. Penney Co. reported from New York that sales rose 4.1% to $690 million for the four weeks ended March 2.
- F. W. Woolworth Co., New York, said domestic sales were up 7.5%, but total sales for the month were unchanged from a year ago at $335 million.
- Montgomery Ward & Co., the Chicago-based unit of Mobil Corp., was the only company to report a decline in February sales--2% to $385.85 million.
- Carter Hawley Hale Stores Inc., the Los Angeles-based operator of the Broadway, Neiman-Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman, said sales for the four weeks ended March 2 rose 13.5% to $257.4 million from the four weeks ended March 4, 1984; comparable-store sales were up 12.1%. On a reporting-period basis, sales for the four weeks ended March 2 rose 17.8% from the four weeks ended Feb. 25, 1984; on a comparable-store basis, the increase was 16.4%.
- Federated Department Stores Inc., the Cincinnati parent of Bullock's and I. Magnin, reported that sales for the month were up 7.8% to $503.6 million. The figures exclude supermarkets.
- Minneapolis-based Dayton-Hudson Corp. said sales for the month were up 14.8% to $473.29 million. Sales on a store-for-store basis, however, were up only 7.9%. Dayton-Hudson's Hayward, Calif.-based Mervyn's department store chain had a 28% increase, while sales at its Target discount unit were up 15%. Its specialty store segment, which includes B. Dalton Bookseller, was up 16%, but its department store group fell 3%.
- May Department Stores of St. Louis, which owns May Co. California, said sales were up 13.3% to $288.7 million for the four weeks ended March 2. Adjusted on a store-for-store basis, sales rose 8.8%. On a calendar-to-calendar basis, sales were up 11.1%, or 6.7% on a comparable-store basis.
- New York-based Associated Dry Goods Corp., which owns Robinson's, said sales for the month rose 14.6% to $249.6 million. Its department store group was up 11.08% while discount units were up 21.2%. On a comparable reporting basis, total sales were up 9.2%
- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Bentonville, Ark., had a total sales increase for the month of 31% to $435 million, but comparable store sales were up 8%.
- New York-based Allied Stores Corp.'s results rose 3.4% to $251.6 million for the four weeks ended March 2, but comparable store sales were up only up 2%.