The nation's major retailers reported Thursday that retail sales, especially those of apparel, picked up in October, as stores heavily promoted leftover fall merchandise that had not sold in the previous month because of unseasonably warm weather.
"Sales were good," said Jeffrey Edelman, a retail analyst with the investment company Drexel Burnham Lambert. "It suggests the economy is still moving along."
Jeffrey Feiner, an analyst with Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, said: "They reflect a little more of an aggressive attitude on the part of many retailing companies."
Walter Loeb, an analyst with Morgan Stanley & Co., said the pickup "indicates that we will have a pretty good Christmas season."
Sears, Roebuck, the largest retailer, said its sales for the four weeks ended Nov. 1 edged up 0.3% over the same period a year ago.
K mart, the second-largest retailer, reported an 11.2% spurt in sales, while third-ranked J. C. Penney Co. had an 8.7% gain.
Sales jumped 10.5% at May Department Stores, No. 4, and 8.6% at Federated Department Stores.
Carter Hawley Hale Stores said its sales for the four weeks increased 5%.
Retailers tried to make up for disappointing sales in the latter part of September--when hot weather affected various parts of the country--by stepping up their promotions and markdowns last month, the analysts said.
"That's what drove the sales," said Edelman, adding that all geographic areas saw an improvement.
But sales a year ago were soft, which made this year's gains look slightly better than they actually were, Edelman added.
Sales of big-ticket durable goods, those items expected to last three years or more, did not fare as well, the analysts said.
Such sales have been inhibited by consumers' high levels of debt and by the surge in new-car buying, they said. Car sales soared after the nation's auto makers offered cut-rate financing in September to clear lots of 1986 models.
Analysts are forecasting that retail sales during the Christmas season will rise 6% over last year, with profit increases in the low double digits. Christmas sales account for a major share of the sales and profits of retailers.
Chicago-based Sears said its October sales came to $2.312 billion, compared to $2.305 billion a year earlier. For the first nine months of the year, Sears said sales rose 2% to $20.8 billion from $20.4 billion a year earlier.
K mart, with headquarters in Troy, Mich., said its sales for the month increased to $1.774 billion from $1.595 billion last year. For the 39 weeks, K mart's sales rose 7.7% to $16.88 billion from $15.67 billion.
Major Retailers' Sales in October
In millions Year % of dollars 1986 ago change Sears 2,312 2,305 +0.3 Kmart 1,774 1,595 +11.2 J.C.Penney 989 910 +8.7 MayDept.Stores 765 692 +10.5 Federated* 815 750 +8.6 DaytonHudson 717 638 +12.4 Wal-MartStores 1,032 727 +42.0 Woolworth 269 254 +6.2 MontgomeryWard 327 317 +3.5 CarterHawleyHale 333 318 +5.0
*Excludes super market sales. Excludes foreign sales.